Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 11, 2013

Search continues for hunter

by BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

CEDAR BLUFF, Va. — Law enforcement agencies, the Cedar Bluff Volunteer Fire Department and volunteers continued to search through the day on Sunday for a Tazewell County man who left his home early Friday morning to go hunting in the woods around his Cedar Bluff home and has not been seen since.

Eric Smith, 41, was reportedly last seen at about 10 a.m. on Nov. 8 when he left his home on foot to go hunting in the woods. The Cedar Bluff Police Department along with volunteers, rescue teams, helicopters and six K-9 teams have been searching the woods for Smith since late Friday evening.

“It has just been an amazing turn-out of volunteers who have come out to help with the search,” Sgt. K.K. Davis of the Virginia State Police said late Sunday night after the search was suspended for the night. “This guy was well-liked in the community and in the coal mining community where he worked. The turn-out has been amazing.”

Davis said that Smith, who works at Consol’s Buchanan 1 Mine, is an experienced hunter who has hunted for about 30 years. “He had a deer stand and even a tent set up not a mile from his home,” Davis said.

“The terrain is challenging. It’s up and down. Some areas that are so steep, that it would be difficult to search on foot, but we’ve been searching with helicopters.”

Davis said that personnel with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management developed a grid for the search.

“We’re searching the areas of the grid.”

In addition to the irregular terrain, Davis said that search coordinators suspended nighttime operations because of the potential of encountering wildlife.

“During the first night of the search on Friday, we had a helicopter with FLIR thermal imaging equipment,” Davis said. “They saw deer and bear up there. We just didn’t want to take the risk of getting someone up there and getting them injured by an animal attack.”

Davis said that in addition to the Cedar Bluff police and fire departments, the Grundy, Va., Volunteer Fire Department, fire departments from Russell and Tazewell counties and Rescue 7 has been participating in the search.

“As I was leaving (Sunday) night, a man came in and volunteered to go out (last) night,” Davis said. “It has been a remarkable turn-out. The fellow doesn’t seem to have an enemy in the world.”

Davis said that Smith was not wearing blaze orange. “Blaze orange isn’t required for muzzle-loader season,” he said. “Muzzle-loader and bow season are two of the exceptions to state law in that respect. If he was wearing camo and if he’s incapacitated, it will be very difficult to see him.”

Davis said the search will resume this morning. “He’s a very well-liked and respected person,” Davis said.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com