A beloved Denver preschool teacher has been missing for nearly a week after his vehicle was found covered in snow near a trailhead in Clear Creek County.
Peter McInerney, a teacher at the Children’s Center at Park Hill United Methodist Church, did not report to work on Feb. 20, according to a letter the school’s director sent to parents. McInerney was last seen on Sunday, Feb. 18.
The letter said McInerney had “never been so much as late for a day of school.” School staff tried reaching McInerney on his phone, contacted family and visited his home but were unable to find him.
McInerney, 65, is known to enjoy “solitary cross-country skiing,” the letter said, so a friend drove up to the mountains to search. A short time later, McInerney’s vehicle was found at the Jones Pass trailhead just west of Berthoud Falls.
Undersheriff Bruce Snelling with the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office said crews had searched the area three full days by foot, snowmobile and snowcat. Last Thursday, Snelling said a hiker and skier found McInerney’s backpack and spot beacon up on a ridge. The discovery prompted another search on Saturday.
Paul Woodward, mission coordinator for the Alpine Rescue Team, confirmed a team of eight rescuers and a dog had joined the search for McInerney. He said conditions were difficult on Saturday with below zero temperatures and 60 mph winds.
Undersheriff Snelling said he was hopeful the search could resume on Thursday or as weather permits.
McInerney is described as a “long-time” teacher at the Children’s Center. The school and childcare center on Montview Blvd. serves children from ages three to twelve.
This is the letter that was sent to parents:
It is with incredibly heavy hearts that we share the news that long-time Park Hill Children's Center teacher, Peter McInerney, is missing. He was last seen Sunday afternoon.
Peter did not report to work on Tuesday, February 20th. In his many years at the Children's Center Peter has never been so much as late for a day of school. We tried reaching him on his cell phone, but his mailbox was full and he did not respond to text messages. We then contacted his sisters and a preliminary search was begun. It is well-known that Peter enjoys solitary Cross Country skiing, and so a list of his usual haunts was compiled.
While an old friend of his drove up to the mountains to check on these locales Sherri and I drove to his home. We did not see his vehicle and there was no answer at his door. With permission from his family we entered his home. We did not find Peter.
A short time later his car was located covered in snow at the Jones Pass trail head. A 'Missing Person' report was filed and the local Search and Rescue team began looking for Peter midday Tuesday. By sundown they had found no traces.
On Wednesday, Search and Rescue teams from multiple counties joined the effort and searched the vast area around the Jones Pass trail head. They were aided by aerial support. At the end of Wednesday no trace of Peter had been found, and as he often skis alone there is no way of deciphering which direction he had been traveling.
Authorities have decided to end the official search. An unofficial search will continue, but in the Search and Rescuer's expert opinion it is unlikely that he would have survived extended exposure to the current weather conditions.
At this time we have no further information and we wish to respect the difficult nature of this revelation for Peter's family. His large group of siblings from all across the country gathered yesterday (Wednesday) at the Search Command Center and have been in contact with us.
We are waiting on Peter's family to determine our next steps. We will be in touch soon with more details and plans.
As you can imagine, this is an extremely delicate situation and we are all processing what this means in our own individual ways. Our plan for dealing with children's questions on this topic (as they arise) will be short, factual, and we will avoid dishonesty. We encourage you to do the same. While we understand that conversations happen organically and there is no way to script a conversation, especially with young children, our general response will be "Peter is missing. We aren't sure where he is. This is very sad."
We are seeking professional advice on how to proceed with this disheartening and ambiguous situation. We will keep you informed as best practices are suggested.
If possible, we are asking current families to reunite with their children today sooner rather than later. This is an extremely difficult time for our staff and we want to give them the opportunity to begin grieving and starting to processing this tragedy as soon as possible.
Thank you for your support during this extremely difficult time.
Sherri Seirmarco - Executive Director
Johnny Moses - Assistant Director