Near Panther Falls
Amherst County, Virginia
Release via Buena Vista, VA PD & Virginia State Police:
This is an update to our original story that was posted here.
Approximately 80 public safety and search and rescue personnel spent the day conducting an extensive search of the Panther Falls area of Amherst County in an effort to locate a missing Buena Vista resident. Chad H. Austin, 30, was last seen Memorial Day (May 27) in the Panther Falls/Shady Mountain area by campers. His silver 2006 Hyundai Tiburon and his beloved mixed-breed dog, Gunner, were found abandoned about 12:30 p.m. the next day, May 28, on Panther Falls Road, east of where the Blue Ridge Parkway meets Route 60. Mr. Austin is 6 feet in height and weighs between 150 to 170 lbs. He has brown eyes and long brown hair, and was last seen wearing a gray tank top and long shorts, possibly beige in color.
“We are greatly appreciative of the many federal, state, local and private resources dedicated to Saturday’s search for Chad,” said Buena Vista Police Chief Richard Hartman. “This was an extremely organized, thorough search operation that covered some of this area’s most treacherous and challenging terrain. We are fortunate to have had such highly-trained, experienced search and canine teams conducting the operation.”
Participating in search operations since last week have been the Amherst County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), U.S. Forest Service, Black Diamond Search and Rescue, Piedmont Search and Rescue, Blue Ridge Mountain Rescue, Search and Rescue Tracking Institute, Dogs East Search and Rescue, Shenandoah Mountain Rescue, Cambridgeshire Search and Rescue, and Mid-Atlantic Dogs. Also assisting with support operations during Saturday’s search were the American Red Cross, Rockbridge-Area Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), VMI Emergency Management, and Virginia Communications Cache – Montgomery.
During the course of the investigation, the Buena Vista Police Department has received approximately 20 leads and is still encouraging the public to contact us with any information about Mr. Austin. He is well-known among the hiking and Appalachian Trail community.
“This is, and will remain, an active investigation until we can bring Chad home to his family. We are still urging anyone who may recall seeing Chad, his car or even his dog, Gunner, at any time over the Memorial Day weekend to please contact us. No detail is too minor as it may be the very information we need to find him,” said Chief Hartman.
Anyone with information about Mr. Austin is encouraged to call the Buena Vista Police Department at 540-261-6171 or the Virginia State Police at #77 on a cell phone or dial 911. His family has established a Facebook page @bring-chad-austin-home.