BUENA VISTA, Va. (WDBJ) — In Buena Vista, a family hasn't given up searching for their loved one. Chad Hunter Austin has been missing for months, and Tuesday is his birthday.
Austin was last seen in May at a campsite in the Panther Falls area in Amherst County. His car was found along Panther Falls Road with his dog, Gunner, still alive.
"You get that phone call that, 'we can't find Chad, they found his car,' and then you still haven't found Chad the next day, and you never in a million years think that here we are, almost 21 weeks later, and he still hasn't come home," Crystal Floyd, Austin's cousin, said.
Austin's family is preparing to celebrate his birthday Tuesday, even though he hasn't returned.
"It's a sinking feeling in your gut," Floyd said.
The family is refusing to give up hope and will never stop looking for him.
"There's a lot of misconception that we've given up. That is absolutely not the case. We do something every day to search for Chad," Floyd said.
Austin's parents say they are too emotional to speak on camera but have released a statement. They wrote, "If we, as parents and family, have a birthday wish, it would be for you to come home!"
"His parents are the strongest people I've ever met in my life. To say that they're heartbroken, is a complete understatement," Floyd explained.
The family is urging anyone with information on Austin or his whereabouts to call Buena Vista Police. If you were in the Panther Falls area around Memorial Day this year and have pictures or videos, the police ask that you come forward. A $1,700 reward is being offered for information that leads directly to finding Austin.
"Somebody somewhere knows something and that one piece of information could bring him home," Floyd said.
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