UPDATE: Church Hill Rescue Squad Capt. Tim Coup reported to the Times News Thursday that all paperwork required as a result of the Equusearch Midwest organization's Beech Creek search this past weekend for Summer Wells had been submitted to his agency, as well as the Hawkins County Sheriff's Office.
Coup stated that there were no issues with the searches that were performed, or where Equusearch performed them.
"I cannot give details due to them being a vital part of an ongoing investigation," Coup said. "I can say that the ground that they covered was covered as they stated it would be without any issues. There was nothing new found during their search operations over the weekend."
ROGERSVILLE — From now on, any organization that wants to conduct a search for Summer Wells in the Beech Creek community that hasn’t been requested by law enforcement must get permission from the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office.
On Tuesday, Church Hill Rescue Squad Capt. Tim Coup stated that CHRS is no longer the lead search agency unless dispatched to reactivate the search for Summer.
That places the authority for approving any future searches in the hands of the HCSO. Coup said the purpose of Tuesday’s action is to prevent any potential hindrance to or interference with the police investigation.
This past weekend the independent, volunteer Equusearch Midwest returned to Beech Creek to conduct an independent search for Summer. Equusearch had sent trained volunteers to assist in the search during the initial 13-day massive search of the area that followed Summer’s June 15 disappearance.
“We didn’t have any issues with them the first time, and I can’t confirm that we had any issues with them the second time just because I’m not sure what they ended up doing,” Coup told the Times News on Tuesday.
Equusearch requested permission to search from Coup, who in turn got that cleared by the HCSO.
Coup said the understanding was for Equusearch to conduct the search from their vehicles and stay off private property, as it did during the initial search.
“They said they were going to give me and the sheriff’s office all information about what places they searched, and as of Tuesday neither have received it,” Coup said. “Whatever they’ve done this past weekend they’ve done and orchestrated and have kept all that to themselves.”
The Times News reached out to Equusearch for comment Monday and Tuesday but there had been no response as of Tuesday evening.
Coup was in charge of the search and rescue operation on the ground during the initial 13-day search, a status that he kept after the operation ended, although police haven’t requested any new searches.
“But these additional agencies wanting to come back in — with it still being an active investigation, with it all being private land over there — we felt as an agency that it would be better for any other searchers to go through the sheriff’s office,” Coup said. “It’s private land and not knowing what they’ve went over or who they’ve talked to, it just opens up for too many more issues.”
Coup added, “If they decide to get out of the vehicles and start trudging around searching again, walk up on people’s property, this all needs to go through the law enforcement side where you defer trespassing. (The HCSO) will head off any potential issues, and they will know who’s going back over there in an area where they still have an active investigation.”
In his press release Tuesday, Coup stated the Church Hill Rescue Squad extends its thanks to everyone involved in the search efforts up to this point.
The press release further stated this is an active investigation to locate Summer and searchers do not want to hinder or interfere with this investigation.