Volunteers search for missing Sarah Stern along the Jersey Shore
NEPTUNE TOWNSHIP — Friends and family are combing the Jersey Shore on Saturday to look for the 19-year-old woman who has been missing for week.
An estimated 300 volunteers came to the Boardwalk Pavilion Praise on the boardwalk in this township's Ocean Grove section to join the search for Sarah Stern. The young woman's car was found early last Saturday parked with the keys inside on the Route 35 bridge between Belmar and this township.
If she jumped or fell into the water, rescuers have not yet been able to find her body.
Volunteers were instructed to keep an eye out for a red sweatshirt or wind breaker, a green iPhone and her drivers license, but were warned not to touch anything they found in order to protect any possible evidence.
State Police on Friday searched the water of the Shark River Inlet with a boat and a wider area with a helicopter. Stern's father, Michael Stern, said police have also checked her social media accounts.
Volunteers will spread out to Long Branch, Deal, Allenhurst, Asbury Park, Bradley Beach, Avon, Belmar, Spring Lake, Sea Girt and Manasquan.
Volunteers will search both the water and nearby wooded areas but also hand out fliers in the hopes that someone has seen her.
Stern, who lost his wife and Sarah's mother to cancer three years ago, said the search will be "gut wrenching" for him.
"If she's out here we want to find her. If not, we want to find her safe," Stern said. "Sometimes I just can't handle the stress and emotional ups-and-downs. It's tough"
"We can give the detectives some help. They combed through her phone records that they were able to get and find out if anybody had contact with her," he said.
He called his daughter's disappearance a "mystery that's very unsettling" given that no one could contact her via cell phone on Friday night.
"There's a time gap in there that we don't know what happened or who she was with because her phone was either dead or turned off ... It's not like Sarah. She's not that kind of kid. She keeps in contact with her."
Michael Stern said he has a good relationship with his daughter.
"Sarah's a good kid. Beautiful, wonderful artist. She kinda likes to be around people and show off her art. 19-years old ... we don't play together and ride bikes anymore but we're together all the time when we're home," Stern said.
There was nothing to indicate Sarah Stern was troubled, according to Michael.
"Everything seemed fine. I talked to her Thursday night; everything seemed fine. We texted back and forth a little," Stern said, adding that he "lost touch" with her on Friday.
"There was talk of her going to Canada," he said, "but not that day. It just seems strange that she got in the car and disappeared."
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.