Update: Winter weather has again postponed a new search for a missing hiker from Staunton. Volunteers had planned a new search for Saturday. A new date has not yet been set.
It's been two full months since a Staunton man disappeared during a mountain hike in western Augusta County.
A team of volunteers will gather this weekend to search for Robert Ray Fitzgerald, known as Bobby, once again, and they're welcoming all the help they can get.
This is no effort to find a happy ending to the mystery surrounding his disappearance. Organizers are saying Saturday's gathering will be a search and recovery in the hope of finally giving the man's family and friends a sense of peace.
Fitzgerald, 60, went for a solo hike on Shenandoah Mountain on November 12 to retrieve a cell phone he'd lost the day before. Search-and-rescue teams from all over the state tried in vain to find him.
Staunton dentist Alan White – an avid hiker himself -- is rallying a group of volunteers to try again. The effort has the support of the Augusta County Sheriff's Office.
"They're going to have someone here to help coordinate us and show us what areas have been searched and what area is the most likely area. They've given it their best shot, and now they're just glad for any help they can get," White said.
Searchers plan to focus on an area where dog teams pick up a possible human scent. They'll line up 10 feet apart and slowly comb the mountainside, which is steep, rugged and covered with thick undergrowth.
Volunteers will gather at White's dental office in Staunton at 8 a.m. Saturday, get a briefing from search-and-rescue workers and then head to Shenandoah Mountain.
Anyone interested in helping can call Alan White at 540-294-2374.
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