Search intensifies for missing Tampa teen in week after disappearance

Missing Tampa teen Hailey Acierno (Family handout).

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A massive search is underway for 17 year-old Hailey Acierno of Tampa.

It’s been more than a week since the teen disappeared and so far there’s been no sign of her.

The search intensified Thursday as multiple agencies joined forces with the Tampa Police Department, including Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies, Pasco deputies and officers from the Fish and Wildlife commission.

It takes a lot of strategy to comb through a park that’s 5,400 acres.

“It’s just a huge park and much of it is really thick brush. Going through there yesterday we were seeing snakes and armadillos and everything else, it’s just really difficult to do the search,” said Steve Hegarty with the Tampa Police Department.

Each agency targeted different locations, but deputies believe Flatwoods Park is the most likely place Hailey could be.

“Her home is just north of the park here and she and her friends used to wonder in the park here on a regular basis. They had places they would go so we are searching those places which we have already done but we’re also searching any area around there,” said Hegarty.

Detectives have interviewed Hailey’s friends and friends of friends hoping for any sort of answer as for where she is.

RELATED: Parents of missing Tampa teen speak about daughter’s bipolar disorder

This search is a race against time as the teen is bipolar and desperately needs her medicine.

“It’s been nine days and as I’ve said, there was a sense of urgency a week ago and more than a week ago so the sense of urgency is more dramatic now which is why you see as many people out here as you do,” said Hegarty.

Hailey’s parents remain hopeful their daughter will make it back home and they want her to know they’ll always support her.

“We love you. We just want you to be okay. And come home. So, please if you can hear this, whatsoever, please know that we would welcome you home with open arms and we just really love you, so, please come home,” said Chris Acierno, Hailey’s father.

The search crews plan to be in the park until dark tonight.

Stay with News Channel 8 and for updates on this story.


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