Days after Jacob Whaley left his car during a devastating snowstorm that hit Virginia, his body was found in the woods off the side of the road, according to a news release from the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office sent to USA TODAY.
The snowstorm left scores of people stuck in a 50-mile traffic jam on Virginia highway I-95 last week, many of them stranded in freezing conditions for over 24 hours.
Whaley’s car had broken down last Monday, and he attempted to walk six miles back home but became lost on the way back, according to the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office. Whaley’s cell phone died, but based on his last communication, a relative believed that he was possibly in Louisa County, says the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office.
For three days, the sheriff’s office deputies and volunteers searched for Whaley and were only able to locate his car, according to local news station WRIC-TV. Authorities were eventually able to locate his body on Thursday in a dense pine plantation, about 200 yards from the highway. The sheriff’s department issued a news release on Friday confirming that they had found him.
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of Mr. Jacob Whaley,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement. “Missing persons cases are always a top priority for the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office, and we share in their grief and sorrow.”
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His family members were unhappy with the pace of the search and believe he could have been saved if people acted earlier, according to WRIC-TV.
“Louisa County let him freeze to death,” said Jacob’s sister, Angela Whaley, to WRIC-TV. “Because of their refusal to do their jobs my parents have to bury another kid.”
Frustration with government services during the snowstorm is not limited to the sheriff’s office. Some drivers ran out of gas, while others waited for hours without food and water.
Senator Tim Kaine, who was stuck for 27 hours on the road on his commute from Richmond, Virginia, to Washington, said, “we’re just not as big investors and infrastructure as we should be.”
Ever since the snowstorm in Virginia left drivers stranded, state leaders have been getting pelted with questions about why the Virginia National Guard was not called in to assist with rescue operations.
The answer being given? No one requested them.
“The Guard has to be activated for them to respond,” Lauren Opett, spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, said in a telephone news conference with reporters Tuesday afternoon. She said there was doubt that there would be enough time for all of that to happen.
Contributing: Ryan W. Miller of USA TODAY
Follow Michelle Shen on Twitter @michelle_shen10.