Body of woman, kids with local ties recovered from Gatlinburg wildfire

Published: Friday, December 02, 2016 @ 1:10 PM

A Centerville man’s two granddaughters and daughter-in-law — missing since Monday following the Gatlinburg, Tennessee, wildfires — have now been recovered.

Tennessee authorities confirmed that the bodies of the daughter-in-law and two granddaughters of a Centerville man were found at the home where the family lived in Gatlinburg.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency reported 34-year-old Constance Reed, Chloe Reed, 12, and Lily Reed, 9, were found at 347 Wiley Oakley Drive.

Constance Reed’s husband is Michael Reed, a Cincinnati native. His father is Grant Reed of Centerville.

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News of the trio’s death came a few days after Grant Reed, of Centerville, traveled to Gatlinburg to help his son.

Thirteen fatalities were confirmed as of Dec. 3.

Over the weekend local, state, and federal crews continued working to contain the Chimney Tops 2 fire, suppressing structural flair ups in the Gatlinburg and conducting thorough damage assessments, according to the state agency.

TEMA also reported a mass text message telling people to evacuate was never sent. The state agency said the local command post, at 8:30 p.m, requested an emergency evacuation message be sent to the Gatlinburg area last Monday. However , disabled phone, internet, and electrical services prevented the message from being sent.

“Due to this interruption, the emergency notification was not delivered as planned through the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System as an Emergency Alert System message or as a text message to mobile devices,” said TEMA in a written statement on the agency’s website. “At the same time, the National Weather Service was unable to reach the local command post.”

According to the state agency, multiple news releases from the park, starting around 10 a.m., regular news briefings beginning at 2 p.m., and the downtown Gatlinburg siren alert system were used to warn the public about the dangerous winds and fire threat. Officials also knocked on doors around noon to notify affected communities.

“Despite the catastrophic events that created barriers to communication, officials utilized all resources available to them at the time to warn the public of the impending threat,” said TEMA in a written statement on the agency’s website. “The multi-agency response of firefighters, police, and emergency responders continues to work efficiently as they enter the recovery phase.”

In addition to losing his wife and daughter, Michael Reed and his teenage son also lost their home. A GoFundMe account, Please Help The Reeds, was setup on Dec. 1 with a $15,000 fundraising goal. As of Monday, the 598 donations received totaled $32,745.

Another fund, the Reed Family Benefit Fund has been setup by Reed’s former high school classmates at Fifth Third Bank.

UPDATE @ 7:29 p.m. (Dec. 2): Grant Reed, the grandfather of the missing girls in Gatlinburg, sent a picture of what’s left of his son Michael’s house in the Chalet Village neighborhood.

“We can go up there tomorrow,” Grant Reed said tonight in an email to WHIO-TV.

EARLIER REPORT

As the death toll from the Gatlinburg wildfires continues to rise, a Centerville grandfather remains hopeful that his daughter-in-law and granddaughters will be found alive.

Friday marked the fourth day Grant Reed’s daughter-in-law Constance and his granddaughters — Lily, 9, and Chloe, 12 — were missing. The last time anyone heard from them is when Reed’s son Michael spoke to his wife Constance on Monday. She called to tell him the fire was close to their Wiley Oakley Drive home in the Chalet Village neighborhood.

“She called me about 8:15 p.m. and said there were flames across the street from our house and she didn’t know what to do,” Michael Reed said during a Nov. 29 interview with a local news station. “I told her to call 9-1-1, and that was the last time I talked to her.”

VIDEO: Man searches for wife, 2 daughters in evacuations

On Thursday, Grant Reed and his daughter, who lives in Toledo, traveled to Gatlinburg to help in the search. In an News Center 7 interview, Grant Reed said 20 percent of the Chalet Village neighborhood had not yet been searched.

The elder Reed said he appreciates everyone’s prayers here in the Miami Valley. He posted the following update on Facebook earlier this week:

“Thanks to everyone who continues to pray for the safe return of my daughter in law Constance Reed and my two beautiful granddaughter Chloe and Lily. There was a forensic team at the home site today but we have not learned yet if they have found anything. We are still holding out hope that they found their way to another house in the area that was not burning. Roads are still impassible and much of the area has not been searched yet. Thanks again and please continue to pray.”

In a News Center 7 interview, Reed said his daughter is spending time with her 15-year-old nephew, who is Michael Reed’s son. They will be checking with the animal shelter set up at the Sevier County Fairgrounds where stray animals are being kept in an attempt to find the family’s missing dogs and cat.

In the interview with a local news station, a tearful Michael Reed described how he and his son got in their van to drive home, but got stuck in traffic. It took him an hour of driving through fallen trees and brush fire before he reached his home, according to a family member.

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“I actually drove our van all the way up the road in the fire to get to our house and when I got there it was completely engulfed,” he said.

By the time Reed was able to make his way to Wiley Oakley, everything was gone, he said.

“I’m just hoping for a miracle,” said Reed, who choked up before pulling up pictures of his family on his phone to show viewers in hopes that someone has seen his wife and daughters.

Reed said he went back into Gatlinburg, before he was allowed, to find his family. He and a friend checked with other shelters in the area without any luck.

Many have reached out to help and make a donation to the family’s GoFundMe account, which was set up on Dec. 1. On Friday, 144 people had contributed $6,378 to the fund’s $15,000 goal.

While the search for the missing Reed family continues, the number of wildfire-related deaths rose to 13 on Friday, said Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters. An additional person died after suffering a heart attack, he said.

The number of those treated for injuries increased to 85.

RELATED: Gatlinburg wildfires: Area couple rescues honeymooners

Five of the people who died, including a 71-year-old man and his 70-year-old wife and a married couple, both ages 61, were identified by name by an Sevier County assistant medical examiner.

In addition to family members, nurses at the school the Reed girls attend said they are devastated and heartbroken about the situation, according to a CBS report.

“We are truly a family, and this is hurting all of us — our teachers, our principal, our assistant principal and us,” Donna Casey said, choking up on her tears.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.