For parents across the world, there are few things more terrifying than losing track of where your child is. Austin and Courtney Farley could certainly relate to that, as their young son August went missing in July 2018. However, a few hours later a group of divers found a body in a nearby lake.
Residents of Fort Worth, Texas, Austin and Courtney were the proud parents of four children named Ivey, West, Lake and August. In the summer of 2018, the young family decided to take a vacation, traveling up to Smith Mountain Lake, which is just outside Roanoke, Virginia.
On the morning of July 5, 2018, Austin and Courtney prepared breakfast for the quartet inside their lake house. After waking the kids, Austin looked to heat u s’mores for his family before they all ventured out to Radford, Virginia, for the day to see some relatives. Unfortunately, though, those plans quickly changed.
As the fire started to heat their breakfasts up, Austin headed upstairs to fetch the children, but he soon realized that August wasn’t there. At 8:30 a.m. the parents dialed 911 to report their son’s sudden disappearance. They subsequently provided a detailed description of the two-year-old, with particular focus on his blue eyes and long blond hair.
Austin and Courtney stated that they’d last set eyes on their son around two hours earlier, noting the yellow shirt and dinosaur pajama bottoms he was wearing at the time. Before long, a large search party was formed, with locals joining Virginia State Police in their bid to find August.
“[August] was the funniest, most precocious [kid],” Austin told ABC affiliate WSET-TV as the search began. “I mean, his nickname is ‘Danger Baby.’ You know, I keep looking up in the trees, because I just feel like he’s going to be climbing one of these trees. He’s only two years old, but he’s just [so adventurous].”
On that note, Austin then turned his attention to the rest of his family. “They’re doing good, the kids are obviously asking, ‘Where’s August?’” he continued. “And we’re trying to reassure them that he’s just found the best hiding spot in the greatest game of hide and seek that’s ever been played. So they’re doing ok.”
“My wife is very strong,” Austin added. “And she’s obviously distraught, but we’re both just constantly praying.” A K-9 unit was dispatched to aid the search effort, along with some boats and a helicopter. Meanwhile, the local fire department also offered their services, providing a drone.
As the search continued in the background, Austin gave another interview about his son, this time with Courtney by his side. “We’re just trusting in God,” he told NBC affiliate WSLS-TV. “We know that [August] is going to be ok, he’s going to come home safe. And even if he doesn’t, God’s got us in His hands. We just really want him home safe.”
Later that morning, the Scruggs Dive Team joined the search, starting their own sweep of the lake. The group was first formed back in 1987 as an extension of the Scruggs Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department. Since then, they’ve conducted numerous searches of Smith Mountain Lake.
At around 11:00 a.m, the dive team focused their attention on the area surrounding the dock, looking for any sign of August. The divers then headed some 12 feet down to the lake’s base, continuing their detailed sweep. Close to two hours later, however, the group made a tragic discovery.
“It is with a heavy heart that I am reporting the body of this young man was found at 12:55 p.m,” Major Ricky Garder of the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office told reporters, according to ABC-13. “He was found near the dock by divers. We ask that you respect the family, and we ask that you pray for the family, who have obviously been going through a very tough time.”
The discovery of August’s body rocked the local area, with Captain Greg McCorkindal, a member of the Scruggs Dive Team, noting the impact. “This is a big tragedy in the community,” he told WSLS-TV. “Something, fortunately, we don’t often face but, when we do, our thoughts and prayers always go straight to the family.”
On that note, McCorkindal then turned his attention to his dive team, stating that they had been well prepared for such situations. “This is something we have trained for, for ourselves, and we do check on each other,” he added. “We do call, make sure everybody’s ok.”
Meanwhile, there was an outpouring of sympathy for the family on social media after the announcement, with hundreds of users leaving messages on WSET-TV’s Facebook page. Indeed, the tragic news generated more than 1,500 comments, many of them praising the efforts of the local search parties.
“Prayers for [August] and his family,” wrote Oakley Covey III. “Also to the first-responders and divers. Those are tough jobs, it takes a special person to do that.” Those words were echoed by Chelsea Owen-Burch, who reserved special praise for the neighbors and strangers who’d helped with the search effort.
“Prayers for the family but also the search and rescue, law enforcement, along with the other volunteers that came to help,” Owen-Burch wrote in the Facebook comments section. “This is not something you recover from. God bless them all. Thank you all.”
A few days after his body was found, the cause of August’s death was revealed to the public by the Roanoke Medical Examiner Office. After conducting an autopsy, the office confirmed that the two-year-old had accidentally drowned in Smith Mountain Lake.
As for August’s family, a GoFundMe page was set up by some of their friends following the tragedy, who were looking to help however they could. Since then, the appeal has earned over $40,000 in donations, just shy of the $50,000 goal.
As the Farleys continued to mourn, one of the local workers offered some more words of sympathy. “It’s so sad to hear a little boy [lost] his life, just because he was curious and wanted to see what this world is about,” Lauren Dalton told WSLS-TV in July 2018. “But we know he’s in a better place.”