Wildnerness Store Owner Hopes Missing Hiker Can Still Survive

By: Litsa Pappas Email
By: Litsa Pappas Email

It's now been about one week since a Staunton man went missing on a hike, and search crews haven't given up on him yet.

Robert Fitzgerald has been a regular customer at Wilderness Adventure in Staunton. That's how co-owner Robert Burnes knows him.

"He was definitely an avid hiker. In fact I think one of the pictures they have in the paper has him wearing one of our fleece jackets that he got here," said Burnes.

It's now been seven days since Fitzgerald went missing in the Shenandoah Mountain.

So what's the chance of a person surviving in the wilderness this long?

"It has a lot to do with the variability of the temperature, it has a lot to do with the physical fitness of the person who is in the wilderness. It has a lot to do with their metabolism," said Burnes.

Burnes says if Fitzgerald has made good shelter and has access to water, he may be alright.

"One can survive days without water but weeks without food. I think conventional wisdom says you can survive 3 to 8 weeks without food," said Burnes.

Burnes says it's always good to have the proper tools to survive in the wilderness like the ones he sells in his store.

But he worries that Fitzgerald may not have had these items since the Sheriff's Office says he just went back out there to look for his cell phone, not to continue hiking.

Either way, Burnes says he still has hope that he'll make it.

"I'm consciously optimistic, I think based on my knowledge of him as a hiker and a customer, I'd say he's got as good a chance as anybody at surviving," said Burnes.

Burnes says if you ever go hiking and get lost, always remember the acronym STOP. That stands for "Stop, Think, Observe, and Plan." If you follow this guideline, it'll be easier to survive and for crews to find you.


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