Family still searches for answers about last missing person from Gatlinburg wildfires


GATLINBURG (WATE) – A heartbroken East Tennessee family is continuing to search for answers about Pamela Johnson who went missing during the Sevier County wildfires.

Fourteen people have been confirmed dead, 13 of whom have been identified, but there’s still no word about Johnson. The 59-year-old grandmother has lived in Gatlinburg for the last 15 years and worked as a clerk at McKinney’s Market and Deli. Known as “Mama Pam,” she was last seen leaving work the night of November 28.

Johnson’s granddaughter Karyssa Dalton says she talked with Johnson several times the night of the fire, but the first of 29 unanswered calls was at 10:26 p.m.

Johnson was sent home early from the market on Highway 321 as the fire closed in. Jeff Laws has known Johnson for 10 years. On the night of the fire, she was taking care of his dog in his apartment at the Travelers Motel. He was in Kentucky at the time.

“She was a very good woman. I’m going to miss her so. She meant a lot to me. I don’t know what I’ll do without her. I love her so,” he said, fighting through tears.

A few days ago, Dalton found knickknacks belonging to her grandmother in the debris of her efficiency apartment.

“It’s heartbreaking to see the place where your grandmother lived for so many years is burnt to the ground and the only thing there is the walls still standing,” she said.

“Everybody’s going to miss her. She was like my mama,” said Laws.

Dalton still holds out a sliver of hope her grandmother could still be alive. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is pursing a lead that could identify the last missing person.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories