Search For Missing Staunton Man Ongoing

By: Dave Byknish Email
By: Dave Byknish Email

Search and rescue teams in the Western-most part of Augusta County are still trying to find Robert Fitzgerald. He has been missing since Monday. He was last seen hiking the Shenandoah Mountain.

Family and friends say that Fitzgerald is an accomplished hiker. He's physically fit and knows how to survive the outdoors.

"He may have been able to weather all the situations out here," said Augusta County Sheriff Randy Fisher. "Obviously as a the search goes longer, hopes diminish."

Harsh terrain and rapidly decreasing temperatures, coupled with the fact Fitzgerald has been missing for almost a week, is starting to weigh on the minds of those desperate to find him.

"Survivability is getting to the point of being a lower percentage," said Search Mission Coordinator Billy Chrimes. "We have to start considering that and considering what effort we're putting in to here and what types of resources we're using."

It's day two of the search which means more help is called in. Seventeen teams made up of nearly 60 volunteers from across the state are combing the eastern side of the Shenandoah Mountain.

With all that effort, and the added help from canine and equestrian units, no leads have been found.

"The problem is, when people suffer hypothermia, they get totally confused, start wandering, and there's no rhyme or reason why they went the way they went. That's the next scenario that will play into it," said Fisher.

Unless Robert Fitzgerald is found by the end of the weekend the concentrated effort will be called off Sunday.

Chrimes said the teams are trying to stay optimistic.

"We're hopeful that we will find him," he said. "Again, the condition, people survive things that make movies and make stories everyday and we could hope for that here. I'll say that pretty much everything is stacked against him."

Even though the formal search for Robert Fitzgerald will end after Sunday, those teams searching say they never stop looking.

The area may be used in the immediate future for training exercises, adding a continued effort to find Fitzgerald's body.


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