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Forest Ranger Captain John Streiff during a press conference announcing discovery of McKay's body.  (Photo:  Chris Knight, Adirondack Daily Enterprise, used with permission)
Forest Ranger Captain John Streiff during a press conference announcing discovery of McKay's body. (Photo: Chris Knight, Adirondack Daily Enterprise, used with permission)

Missing Australian found near Ray Brook, took own life

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An intensive, nearly two-week search in the Adirondacks for a missing Australian soldier ended Wednesday when a state forest ranger found Paul McKay's body on Scarface Mountain near Ray Brook.

An autopsy released Thursday found McKay committed suicide by hypothermia.

The 31-year-old Australian Army captain was a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

While the search for McKay is over, as Chris Knight reports, there are still many unanswered surrounding his disappearance.

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Reported by

Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

Paul McKay, seen here in August 2013, was found deceased on Scarface Mountain.  Photo: provided
Paul McKay, seen here in August 2013, was found deceased on Scarface Mountain. Photo: provided
A person fitting McKay's description had last been seen Dec. 31 walking east on the railroad tracks near the federal prison in Ray Brook, carrying a large backpack and wearing winter clothing. That was two days after McKay flew to the U.S. from Australia and then took a bus to Saranac Lake.

McKay's father reported him missing Jan. 3 after he received an email from his son saying he was leaving him all his possessions.

Teams of volunteers were brought in over the weekend and on Monday to conduct a grid search for McKay. On Wednesday, one day after the search area was expanded, state Forest Ranger Capt. John Streiff said one of his rangers found a body on the northwest shoulder of Scarface.

"We had been up the trail," he said. "We had done sweeps next to the trail. We had searched the top of Scarface, but our search area was still incomplete, and that's why one ranger started going up and searching some promontories and that's when his body was located near a rock outcropping basically.”

The body was brought by helicopter to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake where it was subsequently identified as McKay. An autopsy found his cause of death was arrhythmia due to hypothermia. The death was ruled a suicide.

Saranac Lake Police Chief Bruce Nason said McKay was wearing a winter jacket and snowpants at the time of his death. He also had covered himself with a blanket.

“He must have just laid down, went to sleep and froze,” Nason said.

Overnight temperatures on New Year's Eve, the day McKay was last seen alive, hovered in the single digits above zero.

Speaking at a Thursday press conference, Nason said authorities are still trying to learn why McKay traveled so far from home to commit suicide on an Adirondack mountaintop.

 “The family has been informed of this news and we have expressed our deep sympathy for their loss. His disappearance ended tragically, and at this time we continue our investigation. This is not the outcome we had hoped for.”

Police and forest rangers thanked the public for providing tips and other information during the search.

Special thanks to Chris Knight and the Adirondack Daily Enterprise for help with our coverage.

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