COLUMBIA, S.C. – The mother of a 17-year-old New York girl who disappeared after a weekend trip to Myrtle Beach said Thursday that it's getting harder to keep up hope that her daughter will be found unharmed.
The girl's mother and a friend said the girl may have been depressed because her mother and stepfather are getting divorced.
"It's a parent's worst nightmare," Dawn Drexel told The Associated Press about the search for her daughter, Brittanee. "There's a lot of things that don't add up, and I'm scared that there's the possibility that she's not alive."
Brittanee Drexel was reported missing Sunday, a day after police say she was last seen after leaving a group of friends who had traveled with her from Rochester, N.Y., to visit people at another hotel along a busy stretch of Myrtle Beach's Ocean Boulevard.
But Brittanee never returned, and a friend reported her missing the next day.
Dawn Drexel said she thought her daughter, a junior on spring break from Gates-Chili High School, was staying with friends only a few miles from home when she said on April 23 via text messages she was "at the beach." Brittanee had asked for permission to travel to Myrtle Beach, but Dawn Drexel said she told her daughter no.
"I just said no, you're not going," Drexel said. "But when she gets her mind set on something, she just wants to do it, and that's it. I'm pretty positive she had left Wednesday night."
Dawn Drexel said she communicated with her daughter through cell phone calls and text messages between Thursday and Saturday, exchanging messages over soccer equipment she was going to buy for Brittanee.
Those messages stopped at 8 p.m. Saturday. Capt. David Knipes, a Myrtle Beach Police Department spokesman, said the teen's hotel room was abandoned, her cell phone the only item missing. Investigators have fanned out across the area near the hotel but have found no concrete leads.
On Monday, Dawn Drexel and a handful of her daughter's friends posting dozens of flyers in Myrtle Beach bearing Brittanee's picture and description. The teen's father, who lives near Tampa, Fla., and is in Myrtle Beach with his wife and relatives, is helping in the search, Drexel said.
Brittanee's stepfather has been helping out from Rochester, fielding some media calls during the teen's disappearance. But Dawn Drexel said stress from her impending divorce to Brittanee's stepfather may have contributed to her daughter's depression — and possibly her decision to come to Myrtle Beach.
"She tries to watch out for her brother and sister. ... It was very stressful in the household," Drexel said.
Teams from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children are also assisting in the search, Knipes said.
"We can't rule anything out," Knipes said. "Obviously it's a very concerning thing, when you have a 17-year-old with a history of depression who could do harm to herself or others."
Police in Rochester were helping out by interviewing Drexel's friends and others from the region who traveled to Myrtle Beach last week. Allanna Lippa, 19, said she was one of about 15 people in the group who stayed "in one big room" at the motel.
But Lippa returned to Rochester, where she is now worrying about her friend.
"There's a million things that could have possibly happened to her," Lippa. 19, said. "She was fun, a little ball of energy. But she was also depressed."