Search Effort Continues for Missing Hiker

By: Elizabeth Lamb Email
By: Elizabeth Lamb Email

AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va -- The Augusta County Sheriff's Office is continuing a search for a missing 60-year-old man from Staunton. His name is Robert Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald disappeared either Monday night or Tuesday morning. Nearly 40 volunteers hope to find Fitzgerald safe and healthy.

Rachel Arthur, a search and rescue volunteer, drove to the Valley from Blacksburg to help find a man she has never met.

“We do it because we care,” said Arthur. “If I'm able, if I'm available, I'm going to be there and respond as quickly as I can.”

Fitzgerald hiked a trail on Sunday with a friend. He lost his cell phone and returned to find it Monday or Tuesday and that was when he disappeared.

Billy Chrimes, a search coordinator with Virginia's emergency management department, said a hike can turn into an emergency quickly.

“Most survival stories you hear, it happens in a matter of a few seconds to a minute,” said Chrimes. “You twist an ankle, you take a little bit of a fall. Now you're immobile, now the weather starts coming in, and once the weather comes in, the temperature drops.”

The sheriff's office said Fitzgerald had hiked this trail over nearly two decades and is an outdoorsman. They hope that will help him stay alive. Arthur is motivated to help out.

“We have an obligation to look out for each other and to take care of each other,” said Arthur. “I know that if it were my son or a family member of mine, I would certainly want to know that there are people who cared enough to take time out of their day to go help me find the person I love and care about.”

Search crews have used a canine unit and helicopter to track Fitzgerald down. Arthur and her team hiked near the trail to help out as much as they can.

“We know someone needs us. We don't know from case to case if we're looking for someone who is simply disoriented or if we're looking for someone who's hurt. Either way, they're lost and need to be found. I think that's really the only motivation that we need.”

The sheriff's office has no immediate plans to end the search. It will continue on Saturday.

The sheriff's office has an active search at the Shenandoah Mountain near the Confederate Breastworks area. They are asking all hunters and hikers to stay away from this area until this man is found.

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