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Family of missing Panama woman hoping for safe return

Photos by Jordan W. Patterson Emergency vehicles pictured Tuesday afternoon on Blockville Watts Flats Road where volunteers have been looking for Diana R. Chase, who went missing Sunday afternoon. The search has included hundreds of volunteers and several local police agencies.

BLOCKVILLE — The search for a missing Panama woman entered its second full day Tuesday.

Members from the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office, New York State Police, Forest Rangers and dozens of fire departments and volunteers, resumed their search for 74-year-old Diana R. Chase, who was last seen Sunday evening near her home on Blockville Watts Flats Road.

Chase, whom the family said has never wandered from home by herself before, suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and may be in need of medical care.

“Right now everyone is kind of just in shock,” said Chase’s granddaughter, Meghan. “The family is just waiting around. It’s hard for us to just wait, but we’re keeping up hope.”

Sheriff Jim Quattrone said law enforcement and volunteers remained optimistic and are prepared to continue the search into the weekend.

“We still are optimistic that we will be able to find her,” he said. “I think she’ll have some health issues. We do still have optimism that she’s out there and can be alive. Hopefully we can find her soon.”

The primary search, which began in earnest Sunday evening, has focused on Blockville Watts Flats to Washington roads and over to Hoag Road. Quattrone described the area as a “country block” that stretches miles. Other areas have been searched too, including some places Chase used to live.

A command center, temporarily housed at the Harmony Town Highway Department building a mile from Chase’s home, has been coordinating organized search efforts. Quattrone said 200 volunteers helped Monday, with 20 local fire departments represented. On Tuesday, another 100 volunteers assisted in the search for Chase.

Search teams have utilized law enforcement K-9 units while other volunteers have used their own dogs.

Quattrone pointed out another concern by authorities: the weather. With forecasts predicting wind and rain in the next few days, the sheriff noted that inclement weather “isn’t going to be helping us with the search.”

“Each day we evaluate and develop a plan moving forward to the next day,” he continued. “We are planning logistics at least through the weekend.”

Quattrone encouraged local property owners to search buildings on their properties in the event Chase may entered them. A briefing will be held today at 7 p.m. at the command center.

Meghan Chase, meanwhile, said the family is “grateful for all the volunteers and the fire departments and the Sheriff’s (deputies).” She noted the amount of donations and support that have come in since Sunday evening.

“It helps to keep our hopes up high,” she said. “I’m just wishing that she comes home safe and sound. We love her dearly. … Anyone shopping or out walking around, if they see her, please contact the police.”

Anyone with information regarding Chase’s whereabouts is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 753-2131.

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