The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Wednesday began assisting in the search for two missing Bedford County children.
Authorities said they don't believe 9-year-old Chloie Leverette and her half-brother, 7-year-old Gage Daniel, died in a Sept. 23 fire that incinerated their home, but there is also no indication where or when they could have gone.
On Wednesday, ATF agents started sifting through the remains of the house. Several teams are slowly going through piles of rubble.
The ATF said they added 11 to 12 additional personnel, who might be able to help decide whether there are any remains in the debris that have not been detected.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued an Amber Alert for the children a couple weeks ago after previously issuing an endangered child alert.
Crews have spent days sifting through ashes by hand at the burned home of the children's step-grandparents, Leon McClaran, 72, and 70-year-old Molly McClaran, who died in the fire.
The TBI said they're working on a lot of leads in the case, but that has not yielded any results. All of the interviews they've conducted indicate the two missing children were actually in the house at the time of the fire.
All the while, members of the McClaran family continue to hold a vigil of sorts just feet away, sitting and waiting for answers.
"It's really sad. We can't find the kids. We really want to find the kids," Leon McClaran Jr. said.
State bomb and arson investigators said that the children were not victims of the fire and their whereabouts remain unknown at this time.
"They feel like they don't have solid evidence right now to assume that these children were in the fire," said TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm.
Search crews found what they thought was a tooth but said it is not enough to close the case.
Officials also said they found at least 20 propane tanks in the basement of the house, which probably made the fire much worse. While they do not suspect arson, they said they may never know what started the fire in the first place.
The children were last seen about three hours before the night of the fire.
Crews have also used helicopters and searched the nearby woods to see if the children escaped the fire.
"To err on the side of caution, as far as law enforcement is concerned, we feel like we can leave no stone unturned and just try to follow every lead that we can to ensure that they're not somewhere else," Helm said. "I don't know where else they would be. They were a close knit family."
Chloie is described as a white female, approximately 4'8" and 75 pounds, with brown hair and hazel eyes. Gage is described as a white male, approximately 4' and 75 pounds, with brown hair and hazel eyes.
The sheriff's department brought in additional cadaver dogs to assist in the search, as well as forensic teams from Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee.
Neighbor Erika Barnett said she was just starting to come to terms with the fact her neighbors died in the fire when she learned they might have survived.
"It was just fire everywhere," Barnett said. "As hot as that fire was over there, I don't see how they would have gotten out."
If you have any information concerning the current whereabouts of Chloie and Gage, please contact the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.
Copyright 2012 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Monday, April 21 2014 10:43 AM EDT2014-04-21 14:43:50 GMT
Photo courtesy: The Maui News
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