Memphis couple killed in Gatlinburg fires; 1 son released from h - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Memphis couple killed in Gatlinburg fires; 1 son released from hospital

(Source: Facebook via family friend) (Source: Facebook via family friend)
(Source: Facebook) (Source: Facebook)
(Source: Facebook) (Source: Facebook)

A Memphis couple has been found dead as fires rage through Gatlinburg. Their three sons were injured in the fire. One of their sons has been released from the hospital; the other two continue to recover at the burn center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

Jim Summers, the boys' uncle, posted on Facebook the family was aware the couple had died.

I am sorry to report that a 4:45 pm CST the Sevier County Sheriff's department has reported that the Medical Examiner has confirmed that two of the bodies found in North Chalet Village were Jon and Janet Summers.

Their 3 sons are aware. Your prayers are appreciated...

Jim Summers has been with them all week at Vanderbilt. It was Jim that was notified Thursday afternoon that Jon and Janet Summers were confirmed dead. Jim delivered that awful news to the Summers brothers.

According to family members, the first thing Jared Summers said when he was able to speak was 'How are my brothers, what about my parents?' Jared was able to visit his brothers in their room. Jim Summers said the boys are missing their iPhones and are unable to communicate. 

With all the bad news for this family, one small glimpse of good news is the Summers brothers could be released from Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Sunday.

"It's pretty sad. It's not something anybody expected--having a fire tear your family apart," Nashville resident Ryan Green said.

Jon and Janet Summers went to Smoky Mountains National Park with their three sons, Branson, Wesley, and Jared. As the family evacuated the area, the three men became separated from their parents and were eventually found unconscious.

Investigators insisted earlier on Thursday they had no confirmed information to share regarding Jon and Janet's whereabouts.

"It's frustrating to me," Gatlinburg Police Chief Randall Brackins said. "It's one of the most difficult things you can imagine. For instance, if my family was there and I wanted to know, I'd want an answer. Other than that, I can only say that I understand their frustration--not only with them, but it's also with me. But we have to go through the process and finish."

Jon worked at an architecture firm. Janet worked at Daybreak Outsourcing and Customer Service.

Friends said all three brothers play in a band together and moved from Cordova to Nashville to pursue their music careers. 

Jared and Wesley, who are twins, spent their 22nd birthday in a hospital bed Wednesday. Doctors said Wesley is in stable condition. Branson remains in critical, but stable, condition.

Jim Summers confirmed Thursday that Jared had been released from the hospital. Jim said the other two brothers are still in the hospital, but they "continue to improve."

Doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center said they are equipped to handle the special needs of burn patients.

"What people often forget, when you have a bad burn injury, you don't necessarily have the injury and it's over. Many burn patients, I tell them, 'You are a burn patient for life.'" Burn Center Director Dr. Blair Summit said.

Family members said all three men suffered smoke inhalation and burns. Federal laws prevent Vanderbilt University Medical Center from sharing their exact injuries. 

The family released the following statement Wednesday:

“The Summers boys are stable, and one of them has been able to talk briefly and share his feelings and concerns for his brothers and parents.  We have family and friends coming in from all over the country to be here with us.  So many have expressed the desire to assist, and a website has been set up for the benefit of the boys.

We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and support by so many people, and look forward to the continued recovery of Branson, Jared and Wesley. 

We continue to pray that Jon and Janet are found and we thank everyone for your kind thoughts and prayers.” – The family of Jon Summers.

Friends said the family went to the Smoky Mountains for a weekend getaway and posted pictures as the vacation progressed. In photos posted to Facebook, Janet Summers referenced the ashes falling around them as the Chimney Top Fire progressed.

A family friend talked to an aunt, who said the family was trying to escape flames near their cabin, but a tree blocked the road. 

"They got out to try to move 'em and I understand they got separated somehow from the smoke," said family friend Catrina Guttery, who was devastated when she woke up to the news on Wednesday. "This morning when I woke up and heard that, I just couldn't believe that. My heart just goes out to the entire family."

Guttery has known the family for almost 10 years through the Memphis Music Foundation. 

"Just warm, kind, generous people," she said.

"They're all super friendly; everyone loves them," Jenna Caulder agreed. "I'm definitely hoping that they recover and they find their parents safely."

Caulder knows the Summers brothers from Hog and Hominy, where they worked before moving to Nashville. And like many people, she said their ambition to pursue their dreams was inspiring. 

"It's good to see young people wanting to pursue a career in something and work that hard at it," Caulder said.

Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said eleven people have been killed in the fire and 80 have been taken to the hospitalA K-9 team from Tennessee Task Force 1 is currently in the area to work on search, recovery, and rescue missions.

Donations can be made through American Red Cross by clicking here, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS, or texting REDCROSS to 90999. New Hope Church of God in Sevierville is collecting donations; donors can call (865)932-4673 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST.

Gatlinburg officials are asking volunteers not to come along to assist. Local and state officials are working to manage volunteers and keep them safe.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation established a hotline for missing person reports. Those wishing to report missing people can call 1-800-TBI-FIND with as much identifying information as possible, including names, phone numbers, vehicle identification, and last known whereabouts.

TBI urges the public not to call about personal property in the affected area. Right now, they are focused on locating missing people. 

People in the area also started a local Facebook group for missing people and pets.

A donation fund has also been set up for the Summers family. That fund is already $5,000 over its $30,000 goal. If you would like to contribute, click here.

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