ERNUL—On Thursday morning the area was soaked in heavy rain that didn’t give way to sun until after 2 p.m., but more than 100 people continued their as-yet unsuccessful search for 3-year-old Casey Hathaway.
The boy has been missing since he reportedly wandered from his grandmother’s yard on 200 Toler Road at around 1 p.m. Tuesday.
At a press conference Thursday afternoon Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes, who is overseeing rescue efforts, stated that the goal continues to be to find Casey and return him to his mother Britney Hathaway.
Hughes said that Craven County Emergency Management Services, under Stanley Kite, are now overseeing the day-to-day search. Many volunteers have been turned away, he said, because the operation is beginning to focus on searchers who have professional training in that line, especially with the additional danger of mud and standing water created by Thursday morning’s have rain.
Hughes said some divers have been brought in to search ponds on a local fish farm. He also said the family continues to be cooperative with county law enforcement.
Hughes said he continues to encourage citizens to report anything they hear or see that might shed light on the search to the Craven County TIPS line at 252-636-6703.
It’s the third day since Hathaway has been seen by his family, and the dense woods around the house are continuing to be scoured by searchers.
Casey went missing about 1 p.m. Tuesday and was last known to be playing with relatives in his grandmother’s back yard. Since that time, Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes has overseen a massive search that includes aircraft, professional and volunteer searchers who have combed and re-combed the forest and pools of water that cover much of the rural Toler Road home in northeastern Craven County.
Hughes stated that both the State Bureau of Investigation and FBI are now involved in the search, as well as marines from Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point who are trained in working under such conditions.
He said numerous relatives, friends and neighbors are also being questioned – while Casey is still being treated as a missing person case, foul play has not been ruled out.
Thursday began with a pouring rain that forecasters say will continue through the early afternoon. In a call-in with radio station 96.3 Friday morning, Hughes said volunteer searchers will not be used until the rain passes. “We’re going to run the operation with trained units,” he said.
He expressed his appreciation for the community support and the support he’s gotten from across the state. Churches and other organizations have been providing food for rescuers, and Aurora Road, which Toler Road turns off of, has been lined for a half mile or more with the cars of the numerous searchers who have shown up over the past days.
“I can’t be thankful enough for the relationships we have with other law enforcement,” Hughes said, adding that he has been contacted by at least 50 sheriffs and police chiefs from around the state offering physical and technical support.
But as the hours slip by, the odds of Casey being found alive drop. Hughes realizes the situation is growing more dire. “It’s a sad situation,” he said, but he refuses to give up hope: “Our number one priority is to bring him home.”