BUENA VISTA, Va. - More than 80 law enforcement officers spent their Saturday trying to find a missing man near the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Thirty-year-old Chad Austin, of Buena Vista, has been missing since Memorial Day weekend, when he was last seen near Route 60 in the Panther Falls area. His car, a 2006 Hyundai Tiburon, was found in the area a few days after he was last seen with his dog, Gunner, locked inside.
"It has been a difficult, very agonizing couple weeks for us," Ellen Austin, Chad Austin's mother, said in a statement to the media Saturday. "If you have kids, no matter what age, they're important. Our goal is to bring Chad home."
Officers from eight agencies, including Virginia State Police and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, combed the area on the Rockbridge/Amherst county line from sunup to sundown Saturday to find any trace they could of Chad Austin.
"There are dogs out there trying to pick up the scent," said Buena Vista Police Chief Keith Hartman. "We have clothing that belonged to Chad ,so the dogs know which scent to hit on if he's out there."
The collaborative search effort is only a one-day operation, but Hartman says he will do all he can to help find Austin.
"It's just too many red flags for us to say he just went on a walk and hasn't come back yet," Hartman said.
His family is still holding out hope that Austin is safe and sound somewhere in the woods.
"God will make a way when there's no other way," Ellen Austin said. "We just believe and pray that he's hopefully alive somewhere. It's just so overwhelming to know that they're still looking."
Chad Austin is 6 feet tall, weighs 150-170 pounds and has brown hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information should call Buena Vista police at 540-261-6171.
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