Charges reportedly dropped against teens in deadly Tennessee wildfire case
SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — The charges against the teens accused of starting the deadly fire in Sevier County have been dropped, Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
According to Attorney Gregory P. Isaacs an order was filed dismissing the aggravated arson charges against the 15 and 17-year-old who authorities claimed started the fire after throwing lit matches on the ground while hiking down a trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park back in November.
The fire ultimately claimed the lives of 14 people and injured almost 200 others.
In a statement released to CBS affiliate WVLT, the district attorney said, “…the State is unable to prove the criminal responsibility of two juveniles beyond a reasonable doubt for the devastation that occurred outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In addition to the wind, the State’s case is further complicated by the fact that there were other fires in the area and other confirmed ignition points in the Gatlinburg area from multiple downed power lines that were felled by the wind.”
“Once the investigation confirmed multiple fires with multiple points of origin, it became impossible to prove which fire may have caused the death of an individual or damage to a particular structure.”
However, the minors could still face federal charges, the news station reported.
They received a statement from the National Park Service saying they will present the case to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
More information is expected to be released Friday afternoon.