East Tennessee woman says husband may be 15th Gatlinburg fire victim

(Courtesy: McAllister Family via WATE)

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE) – An East Tennessee woman said her husband may be the 15th victim of the Gatlinburg wildfires.

Sevier County officials said 14 people died that night.

Janice McAllister said her husband, Danny, died in late December and his doctor explained it could be linked the fires.

McAllister said friends knew him as Coach Danny. She has a collage to immortalize his infectious smile and shared the importance of his mentorship to kids as a football coach.

“It’s very hard to get used to him not being there,” said McAllister.

It was still difficult for her six months later after losing her husband of 40 years.

(Courtesy: McAllister Family via WATE)

McAllister continued, “They do say 14 dead. I say Danny was the 15th because the doctors say the smoke pushed him over the edge.”

Danny suffered from lung disease for a while. In a letter from his doctor, it said there is “high clinical suspicion that he contracted this unusual pneumonia after being exposed to the wildfires in Eastern Tennessee.” That illness later killed Danny McAllister.

“They are not taking into account anything except what happened in Gatlinburg,” said Janice McAllister.

They lived in a house off of Goose Gap Road in Wears Valley. That night, they said didn’t see any smoke and they didn’t smell any of it so it gave them no reason to leave their home. A few days later, Danny McAllister was admitted to UT Medical Center.

“You just wonder how many more folks are suffering from the same damage,” said Janice McAllister.

In the meantime, she and friends take frequent trips to Wear Farm City Park in Pigeon Forge. The football field there was named after Danny McAllister, a loving coach of eight years.

“I have never met a more loving man in my life,” said Jimbo Whaley, a friend of Danny McAllister.

Whaley said Danny McAllister was known for his hugs. That allowed him spread that contagious smile.

“The children are going to miss him as bad as I do,” said Janice McAllister.

When asked if Danny McAllister could be counted as the 15th victim, the Sevier County mayor’s office said they got the number 14 from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. A TBI spokesperson said that question could not be answered because of a gag order related to the fires.

Some Gatlinburg survivors have said they are thinking about filing a class-action lawsuit. Janice McAllister said she is not interested in that. However, she would like there to be a better warning system in place.