UPDATE: Authorities detail search for Day County woman via press release

February 3, 2021

Mike Tanner

WEBSTER, S.D.–The Day County Sheriff’s Office issued a news release today detailing the extensive five week search for a missing woman whose body was ultimately found late last week.

Forty six year-old Amy Dougherty disappeared December 23rd in blizzard conditions as she was driving to work in Bristol.

Last Friday, her body was found inside her vehicle in a slough a mile west of Bristol.

Authorities believe she drove off the road in whiteout conditions and into the body of water.

Divers used a magnetometer during the search that had primarily been used for locating pipes in oil and gas fields.

When volunteers with Central Divers LLC located the vehicle using that piece of equipment, they immediately contacted law enforcement.

Day County Sheriff Ryan Rucktaeschel says an autopsy and investigation continue to determine the specifics of the accident.

Today, Day County Sheriff’s Department issued a press release, the full context of which can be read below:


Day County resident Amy Dougherty was reported missing during the early
morning hours of December 23rd, 2020 during a snow storm. It was
reported to the Day County Sheriff’s Office that she had never arrived
at her place of employment and her husband could not reach her on the
phone. The Day County Sheriff’s Office began to coordinate search
efforts in the attempt to locate the missing person.

During the first few days of searching, the Day County Sheriff’s
Office concentrated on the area where Amy would most likely have
traveled to work. Many local residents, along with members of the
Bristol Fire Department and Webster Fire Department, helped with the
search. After receiving some phone pings and with the help of Civil Air
Patrol and other local pilots, the Day County Sheriff’s Office had a
grid/box area that was concentrated on, which was most likely the area
Amy would be found.

Codington County Search and Rescue was also dispatched to help on many
different occasions throughout the whole search. Codington County
Search and Rescue used a sonar system and an underwater camera vehicle
to help search the bodies of water that the Day County Sheriff’s
Office had concentrated on. The Day County Sheriff’s Office was
contacted by Caleb Gilkerson, who is the owner of Central Divers LLC.
Caleb advised that one of the family members wanted to rent a
magnetometer. Caleb stated that they would handle the search using that
piece of equipment. The magnetometer was leased from Unique Group out
of Houston TX. The magnetometer is used in oil and gas fields for
locating pipes and other related objects.

This was the first time that this company had the magnetometer
used for this kind of search. Caleb stated that he thought it would
work to locate the vehicle under the ice. Caleb and his team, which
consisted of Jared Rasmussen, Kevin Grundwaldt, Steve Fahey, Doug Runge,
and Vern Johnson, searched the bodies of water around the area for a
week or so, but with no luck.

On January 29th, 2021 Central Divers, LLC again attempted a
second search with the magnetometer. Caleb and his team began to search
a different body of water just west of Bristol along the highway.
Sheriff Rucktaeschel received a call from Caleb later in the afternoon
saying that the vehicle had been found. Sheriff Rucktaeschel and his
deputies responded along with South Dakota Highway Patrol and DCI. The
vehicle was removed from the water and Amy was recovered from inside of
the vehicle. An autopsy and investigation continue to determine the
specifics of the accident.

The investigation was handled by Day County Sheriff’s
Office, SDHP, and DCI. The Day County Sheriff’s Office would like to
thank all the friends, family, DCI, SDHP, Codington County Search and
Rescue, Central Divers, SD Civil Air Patrol, and Lake Area College
Aviation Program for their help in this search. Day County Sheriff’s
Office would like the family of Amy Dougherty to know that you are in
our thoughts and prayers at this time of need.