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Paul McKay, a member of the Australian Army, was last seen in Ray Brook on Dec. 31. This is one of several photos posted on his Facebook page four days before he disappeared.
Paul McKay, a member of the Australian Army, was last seen in Ray Brook on Dec. 31. This is one of several photos posted on his Facebook page four days before he disappeared.

Search expands for missing Australian

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State forest rangers are expanding the primary search area for an Australian soldier who's been missing in the Adirondacks for two weeks.

A person fitting Paul McKay's description was last seen walking east toward Lake Placid on the railroad tracks near the federal prison in Ray Brook, carrying a large backpack and wearing a winter jacket and snowpants. That was around noon Dec. 31, two days after McKay flew to the U.S. from Australia.

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Reported by

Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

Just after 1 on Monday afternoon, members of a search team move slowly through a dense forest outside Ray Brook, looking for any signs of Paul McKay.

 For the past three days, the effort to locate McKay has been focused here, near Scarface Mountain, not far from where he was last seen on Dec. 31.

Roughly 30 volunteers from several state-certified search and rescue teams have been involved in the search since Saturday. They’ve been conducting what are called Type 3 or grid searches on each side of the railroad tracks. Glen Bronson is the forest ranger overseeing the group.

“It’s an intensive hand in hand search where we guide off string line in a pre-laid out block, and we’re basically walking through looking for any evidence of the subject,”  he said. 

The rough terrain doesn’t make this kind of search easy. The volunteers have to push their way through a thick balsam forest, over ground that’s covered in snow and ice.

 “It’s slightly hilly but very dense,” Bronson said. “It’s basically 10 feet of visibility through most of it. We’re shoulder to shoulder walking through there.” 

So far the group hasn’t turned up any sign of McKay. Police have said the 31-year-old was on leave from the Australian Army at the time of his disappearance and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. 

He was reported missing by his father on Jan. 3 after his son sent him an email saying he was leaving him all his possessions.  

Even though McKay was last seen carrying a large backpack and wearing winter hiking gear, he may not have had the kind of cold weather camping equipment needed to survive in the backcountry , according to forest ranger Lt. Gary Friedrich.  “The thing is, we can’t put any winter camping gear in his pack,” Friedrich said. “He did not have that available to him in Australia, and we’re fairly certain in our investigation with Saranac Lake PD that he did not purchase that stuff in the United States. He has a large pack, but in the pictures that appear, the compression straps are not fully expanded so the pack is not chock full of stuff. It’s a large pack that’s fairly empty.”

Friedrich said the lack of any signs of McKay or any new sightings of him has made this search very challenging. 

Still, volunteers like Dan Groves of Ray Brook aren’t getting discouraged. 

“This guy’s a veteran. He’s done a lot for us,” Groves said. “Being a father, too, I think that if my kid was in the same position, I’d want somebody else going out to look for him.” 

Beginning today, forest rangers will expand the primary search area east to Old Military Road outside Lake Placid and southeast into the western High Peaks Wilderness.


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