GATLINBURG, Tennessee — The charges have been dropped against two teens who were accused of starting the wildfires in Gatlinburg last fall.
The wildfires caused millions of dollars in damage in the Smoky Mountains and resulted in over a dozen deaths.
Sources previously told the Knoxville News Sentinel that the boys, ages 17 and 15, were hiking on the Chimney Tops Trail — tossing matches onto the ground.
The Isaacs Law Firm released a statement saying, “Prosecutors have dropped charges against the two juveniles they initially labeled as being responsible for starting the state’s largest and deadliest wildfire this century.”
Greg Isaacs, defense attorney for one of the teens, held a news conference on Friday, June 30th.
“My client and the other juvenile, based on the proof and evidence, did not cause the death and devastation in Gatlinburg. Period.”
Fourth Judicial District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn filed the order to dismiss the charges.
“The unprecedented, unexpected and unforeseeable wind event that started in the early morning hours of Nov. 28, 2016, approximately four and a half days after the initial origin of the fire, was the primary reason the Chimney Tops II fire traveled outside the park into Gatlinburg,” said the district attorney’s office in a news release.
Prosecutors said they are unable to prove the juveniles’ criminal responsibility beyond a reasonable doubt because of the winds that reached speeds over 80 mph.
According to the state, there were several other fires in the area and additional ignition points that were caused by downed power lines.
The release goes on to say, “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.”