BAY TOWN, Texas ― Dozens of members of Texas EquuSearch, many of whom are still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, gathered in south Texas this week to search for missing realtor Crystal McDowell.
“Several of our people have water in their homes or they are nearly destroyed, and they left what they were doing to come out here,” Texas EquuSearch founder and director Tim Miller told HuffPost on Wednesday. “We have about 100 people out here ― ground searchers, ATVs, drones, boats and the list goes on.”
McDowell, a 37-year-old mother of two from Bay Town, was last seen on the morning of Aug. 25 ― the day before Harvey ravaged the area. She was captured on video leaving her boyfriend’s house and was reportedly on her way to pick up her children from her ex-husband, Steven McDowell. The Chambers County Sheriff’s Office has said it does not believe the missing woman was a victim of the storm. Authorities suspect foul play in her disappearance, but have yet to name any suspects or persons of interest.
McDowell’s black C-class Mercedes was found on Aug. 27, submerged in water at a Motel 6 in Mont Belvieu. Authorities said they suspected it had been parked there prior to the storm.
About two dozen members of the Army National Guard joined EquuSearch, making their way through thick underbrush along West Bay Road in Bay Town, north of Highway 99. Searchers focused on the Cedar Bayou and surrounding areas.
“Information came in on the investigation that [authorities] want this area searched,” Miller said. “We’re going where they want us to go and we’re spreading out from there.”
Volunteers spent about 12 hours searching for McDowell on Wednesday and were back at it on Thursday morning.
“We flew this area with two different kinds of aircraft,” said Gene Robinson of Drone Pilot, Inc. “We used high-resolution cameras, and when we came across things we had no way of identifying, we sent in ground crews with GPS coordinates.”
Searches are ongoing this weekend.
Miller coordinated the search efforts just days after rescuing members of his family who were trapped in a Dickinson attic with rapidly rising water.
“My granddaughter calls and she’s panicked,” Miller told HuffPost of receiving a call from Natalie Weir, 28.