From Virginia State Police: BUENA VISTA, Va. – The Buena Vista Police Department expanded its search efforts Saturday (June 15) for a missing 30-year-old resident. With the assistance of the Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) and Amherst County Sheriff’s Office, an extensive search is underway near the Panther Falls area along Route 60 in Amherst County. Buena Vista Police also hope to hear from anyone who may have been passing through the Panther Falls area over the Memorial Day weekend and may recall having seen Chad H. Austin or his vehicle, a silver 2006 Hyundai Tiburon.
Mr. Austin was last seen this past Memorial Day (May 29) by campers in the Panther Falls area, east of the Blue Ridge Parkway. He was wearing a gray tank top with long shorts below the knees, possibly beige in color.
Mr. Austin was reported missing after his silver Hyundai Tiburon was found around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday (May 28, 2019) on Panther Falls Road in the Shady Mountain/Pedlar River area of Amherst County. The car was found abandoned about 2 miles down the turnoff for Panther Falls Road. His beloved, mixed-breed companion, a dog named Gunner, was locked inside the car.
“This is extremely unusual for Chad to have gone this long without communicating with his family or close friends,” said Buena Vista Police Chief Richard Hartman. “It’s also very out-of-character for Chad to have left Gunner behind and put at risk by being left inside a locked vehicle. Chad’s family says the two have been inseparable since Chad got him as a puppy and would never willingly let any harm come of him or to any animal, for that matter.”
A search of the immediate area resulted in several keys and other personal items belonging to Mr. Austin being found about a ½ mile from the abandoned car.
“Chad was well-known among the hiking community in this region and along the Appalachian Trail for his charitable goodwill, as he would often help with rides and food, and help folks find places to stay,” said Chief Hartman. “We are asking 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 bring him safely home to his family.”
Austin is 6 feet in height and weighs between 150 to 170 lbs. He has brown eyes and brown hair. His dog, Gunner, is now being cared for by Mr. Austin’s family.
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.