In about a two-week span, two vehicles went off the road and into the James River causing at least three fatalities. Those are horribly sad situations, and those types of crashes can happen anywhere there's water.
What's curious is that when these crashes occurred, the people involved were missing for a significant amount of time. Yet no one notified the public to keep an eye out for these people or to watch for suspicious or unusual-looking activity. Whose job is that? Who is in charge of alerting the public that someone is missing? Certainly it has to be a state agency, right?
According to the state Attorney General's website, "the South Dakota Missing Persons Clearinghouse acts as a liaison for families and law enforcement to provide contacts and resources that can assist in the search for missing persons."
But as of Friday, the website showed six people listed as missing in South Dakota. The most recent to have gone missing is Rachel Cyriacks, of Woonsocket, last seen in November 2013.
Each person on the website is seemingly a major case.
In a similar instance, 9-year-old Serenity Dennard went missing in February. To notify the public, a state alert was issued as an "Endangered Missing Advisory." What criteria exactly does it take to get someone listed as a missing person? How long do they need to be missing? And how does the state decide what's considered serious?
In late March, a garbage truck from Howard went missing. Local authorities were notified on Thursday, March 21, and yet the vehicle and the bodies weren't found until late into the weekend.
This week, a search and rescue team was deployed northeast of Mitchell to find a van driven by a 28-year-old male that had gone into the James River. Law enforcement is still investigating the timeline of when the vehicle went in the water, but we know it was well before the search began. Perhaps days before the search, even. We also have no idea exactly how many people are potentially missing, as law enforcement said the search continues for more possible occupants.
We're sure families were worried and holding out hope while their loved ones were missing, both from this week's crash scene and the one with the garbage truck.
So given these two recent crashes, shouldn't we learn something from all this?
We believe it's important for public safety to improve its communication. The more people looking and watching for missing people, the better.
Doesn't law enforcement encourage the public that if you see something, say something?
We recognize it's highly unusual to have vehicles drive off the road and into water to create a crash scene that has little-to-no evidence. But in both crashes there are trails of evidence. Perhaps sending out an alert to the public that people went missing would encourage others to speak up if they see trails leading into the water.
Quite frankly, the state's ability to notify the public in cases in which people go missing seems incredibly inconsistent.