The body of a New York man who had been missing in the mountains of Patrick County for more than a week was found down a steep ravine just before sunset on Monday.
Patrick County Sheriff Dan Smith said his deputies along with employees of Primland Resort were looking for Bruce Rubin, 61, of Chappaqua, N.Y., along the south end of Buzzards Roost Trail when they spotted the remains off of a bluff in the Roaring Creek Gorge.
“That area had been searched during the past 10 days, and the rhododendron cover on the mountain is so thick that you could easily not see something 15 or 20 feet away,” Smith said.
Capt. Rob Coleman, Deputy Ronnie Williams and Tim Branham, a hiking guide and naturalist for Primland, were working as a team Monday when Williams, working his way down from the opposite side of Roaring Creek, a tributary of the Dan River, spotted Rubin’s body.
“Ronnie was able to see him from the other side of the ravine and got a glimpse of him, and that’s how he was found,” Smith said. “Just boots on the ground. It was like finding a needle in a haystack.”
Patrick County Deputy Dan Gray, experienced and rope-certified, took lead in the recovery and was the first to rappel down 170 feet from the cliff to the remains.
“It was apparent that he had accidentally fallen,” Smith said. “We don’t suspect foul play. It was obvious that he was alone, and when we interviewed family and friends, they said that he was a guy that would not hesitate to leave the beaten path—he was adventurous.”
Smith said rescuers “got him out of there with a series of leverages and pullies and several people helping to pull the body up.”
The body was transported to the medical examiner’s office in Roanoke for an autopsy.
Rubin, an experienced adventure running, had not returned from a run on the morning of July 2 at this luxury resort in Meadows of Dan, launching an intense search-and-rescue operation that involved as many as 150 rescue personnel at one time.
They came from groups such as the Black Diamond Search and Rescue from Marion, Randall’s Adventure Training and Search and Rescue (RAT SAR) from Gallant, Ala., the Blacksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad Ropes Team and ropes-certified members of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
Rubin had left for a run on the Buzzards Roost Trail at around 11 a.m., and Smith said then that he knew early on that the search would most likely lead them to treacherous areas nearby.
“It was clear that it was common for Bruce to leave the trail while he was hiking and explore,” Smith said.
Rubin was the chief operating and compliance officer for Westchester Capital Management and a competitive mountain and technical trail runner.
He had qualified for a 47-mile marathon in Grand Canyon in September and was in training.
“We’ve interviewed tons of folks, and there are a lot of folks that know him and they all said that he was in extremely good shape, good physical condition,” Smith said. “He was an adventurist and he was training for a marathon and looking for elevation changes.”
Smith said he found no fault with Primland property or the way it was made available for its guests.
“I think Primland had done everything possible,” Smith said. “That trail was so clearly marked, and the trail was safe.
“Primland had done everything in their power to make it safe and did nothing wrong.”
Although Smith admitted there is nothing anyone can do to prevent someone alone in the woods from exploring, it’s always a good idea to have a friend with you.
“It’s also important to stay on the path if you’re in unfamiliar territory,” he said.
Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-638-8801, Ext. 236. Follow him @billdwyatt.