ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Search teams are having their progress in finding Summer Wells slowed by poor signal and dangerous terrain.
5-year-old Summer Wells went missing on Tuesday evening in the Beech Creek community in Hawkins County.
Now on the second full day of searching, the 80-100 trained professionals from 19 different agencies are dealing with communications issues due to the hilly area where Wells disappeared.
“We can’t hardly communicate at all on our radios and cell phones are out of the question,” Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said in a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
AT&T and Verizon have brought cell signal boosters to help increase reception, but Incident Commander of Ground Search Captain Tim Coup said service was “still spotty.”
Crews must also deal with rough terrain that slows their progress toward covering more ground.
“We are also experiencing very dense canopy coverage including very dense ground cover,” Coup said. “That is causing search efforts to become very difficult, taking extra time to cover these areas adequately, exhausting teams a lot quicker.”
The hills in the area also impact radio signals, making it harder for the number of people involved to effectively communicate.
“For ground crew operations, we are having to utilize anywhere between four and six radio channels to make sure everyone is accounted for,” Coup said.
Hawkins County Mayor Jim Lee said some of the radios used by county law enforcement are between 15 and 20 years old.
A new radio system was purchased last week. Lee expects that system’s repeater to be installed on top of a Hawkins County mountain in the next few weeks.
He hopes to use grant money to install new radios in vehicles and provide new handheld units to public safety personnel. That requires Hawkins County Commission approval.
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