Search for Serenity on hold due to weather

By  | 

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) -- It's been a week and a day now since a 9-year-old girl disappeared into the woods near Rockerville. Hampered by Mother Nature, searchers will have to wait at least a few more days to find Serenity Dennard.

The search for Serenity has been one of the largest such efforts in Pennington County history, authorities say.

Three hundred and thirty five people, 14 specially trained dogs, 33 agencies and even an airplane and a helicopter haven't yet found the 90-pound girl who ran off from the Black Hills Children's Home on Super Bowl Sunday with no winter coat.

Searchers do not expect to find her alive at this point and, for now, the search is on hold as the snow and cold are proving too difficult to overcome. No searchers went out on Monday.

"We need a couple of days to assess," said Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom. "Unfortunately the 10-day forecast doesn't look very good. It doesn't help us to put resources out there when it's not conducive to searching. It just isn't very productive. It's going to be a day by day basis for right now."

At the Children's Home, staffers are determined to keep their attention on the other children and leaders say they are grateful for all the help from so many quarters.

"I'm so proud of law enforcement, the sheriff's department, the police department, fire departments, the volunteers," said Children's Home Society Executive Director Bill Colson. "It's incredible what you've all done to serve the needs of our community and our children. We're still focused on Serenity. We pray for her daily and we're focused on the other children we care for."

Colson said that any time anything happens to one of the children at the home it triggers a routine investigation from the state Child Protective Services.

Meanwhile, search managers said that they expect to bring back the out-of-state dog teams that put in two long days over the weekend when the weather breaks. They also said that keeping a mental focus can be difficult on such a long and emotional search but that search and rescue personnel are driven by a desire to help.

"A big part of what drives us is being able to be part of what brings a family back together," said Pennington County Search and Rescue Team Leader Tammy Stodel. "So in this instance being part of the recovery effort for Serenity is what's going to drive our team members and the fact that they know they're doing something for someone they've never met is really the driving force behind it."