A look back at 2019 Search and Rescue operations

PENNINGTON COUNTY, S.D. — Pennington County search and rescue operations were strained in 2019 due to two expansive searches, one of which was being deemed the most extensive in state history.

Nine-year-old Serenity Dennard went missing February 3. Sixty-six-year-old Larry Genzlinger was last seen October 1. The weather proving to be the toughest factor in both cases.

In Serenity’s case, bitterly cold temperatures and a blanket of snow swept the Black Hills, hindering search efforts in the first few and most critical days. The search continued for months, with help from dozens and dozens of agencies from around the region. Weather continued to be a challenge, either delaying searches or adding challenges to K9s with fluctuating temperatures and precipitation. While ground searches continue to be at the mercy of the weather, officials say the behind the scenes investigation continued as they followed leads across the country.

Across the hills, Larry Genzlinger was reported missing amidst a hunting trip near Deerfield. Immediate days after his disappearance, the weather, once again became an issue. But even with good search weather since then, Genzlinger remains missing. The search has been put on pause until snow depths can lessen and temperatures warm up.

Search and Rescue’s budget did become strained over the course of the year, not just for the searches for the still-missing, but due to other searches throughout the year. The county has used $73,000 of federal funds to supplement the search budget. But what isn’t addressed in the budget strain is the number of volunteer hours put forward by the dozens and dozens of agencies that in the long run may be saving the organization money.

According to Sheriff Kevin Thom, the saving potential is unknown since volunteer hours are not tallied. The searches continue to be volunteer driven and Thom says they won’t stop until they turn the missing into the found.

Serenity Dennard was last seen wearing a grey, long sleeve T-shirt, a purple tank top, jeans and black boots. She is four foot seven inches and weighs roughly 90 pounds.

Larry Genzlinger was last seen wearing full camoflage with a black baseball cap. He is five foot nine inches and weighs roughly 250 pounds.

Anyone with information is urged to contact the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office at 605-394-6135.

Categories: Local News