ABBEVILLE — A massive, daylong search in Abbeville for a missing man with dementia ended unsuccessfully on Sunday, despite extraordinary efforts taken to locate him — including halting train traffic later in the evening to accommodate search parties.
Eddie C. “Bay Hay” Dunlap, 87, apparently walked out of his Secession Avenue home late Saturday night and began walking toward Abbeville’s downtown square, city police Chief Ron Bosler said.
Crews began looking for him early Sunday morning and quickly received assistance from Greenwood County fire and EMS volunteers. By noon, a command post was established in the parking lot of the former United Community Bank building at 100 West Greenwood St.
Assistant police Chief Matt Harris said the search was suspended Sunday at 9:30 p.m. and would resume this morning. He said a small group of volunteers will check vehicles through the night.
The staging area will shift to the Southside Baptist Church parking lot, Harris said.
In addition to oppressive heat, rescuers during the day were confronted with a large search area that included urban alleyways and dense, vegetated quadrants.
By mid-afternoon, a Life Flight helicopter was circling above the command center, and Raven, a 3-year-old dog trained in scent detection by her handler Cheryl Phillips was on hand as well.
Phillips volunteers with the Hodges-Cokesbury Fire Department and Ware Shoals Fire and Rescue.
Authorities set up a makeshift emergency operations center, pulling up on a TV GIS maps of the city. After they were broken into sections, teams combed them on foot.
The parties covered blocks at a time, canvassing residents and checking inside abandoned vehicles, outbuildings and even public trash bins and restrooms — all to no avail.
Raven appeared to pick up Dunlap’s scent on several occasions, but Saturday night’s rains made it difficult for her to follow a specific trail. As the day progressed, surveillance footage was pulled from nearby businesses in an attempt to pinpoint Dunlap’s location.
Throughout the afternoon, police cruisers, off-highway vehicles and large pickup trucks could be seen riding up and down some of Abbeville’s main streets, handing out water to volunteers and deploying crews as information came in.
About 5:30 p.m., the search moved away from downtown Abbeville and toward areas off Secession Avenue. More than once, a machete was used to hack down thick weeds as volunteers moved along trails and a set of railroad tracks.
Cries of “Bay Hay!” and “Eddie!” could be heard almost all day.