Family organizes search party for missing Buena Vista man

Published: Jun. 3, 2019 at 11:38 AM EDT
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Community members gathered in Buena Vista to search for a 30-year-old man who went missing near Panther Falls in Amherst County. They said a prayer and took to the woods to find clues to try and bring him home.

"Help us to make good choices and decisions while we're out there, keep us safe and keep the critters and snakes far away," Pastor Bryon LePere, from Buena Vista Baptist Church, prayed for Chad Hunter Austin and the family and friends that covered themselves in bug spray and sun tan lotion—ready to scour the wooded Panther Falls.

Panther Falls Road is where the 30-year-old Buena Vista man went missing last Tuesday. He was last seen at a campsite on Monday night, and his car was found on the side of Panther Falls Road with his dog inside, still alive, on Tuesday.

Police brought along bloodhounds and searched the area

, so family decided to take matters into their own hands. They organized a search party.

"[Austin's parents] as myself, appreciate every one of you being out here today," Austin's cousin said to the group.

Austin's mother added, "I'm just overwhelmed for all of you to be here."

Those that knew Austin and those that didn't gathered near downtown Buena Vista to coordinate their search efforts and do their best to bring him home.

"Just a lot of respect for him and love for the family, so when I heard about this, found out a couple other folks that I knew would be out there, I said let's be a part of that," Pastor LePere said. He knows Austin's father.

"I don't know how this is all going to play out, but I know there are far more questions than answers and the family deserves to have some answers and figure out what's going on and hopefully have some success with this," Pastor LePere added.

Matt Dameron, a friend of Austin's cousin, wants to bring to the family that kind of success as well.

"I'm a big-hearted person, all the people that are here are big-hearted people, and I'm very glad that they come out here, and I'm glad that I can help the family and they can too," Dameron said.

The sheer number of those that showed up for Sunday's search struck a chord.

"It's evident what he means to a lot of people and that's important enough," Pastor LePere said

Austin's mother said to the group, "We pray that he's found soon and no matter what the circumstances, we just want him found."

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