Member of Australian military helps in search for missing man

SARANAC LAKE – A member of the Australian military spent the past two days here assisting village police and state forest rangers in an ongoing search for Paul John McKay.

Meanwhile, police have provided new images of the missing Australian man, taken from a surveillance camera at a bus terminal in Albany. They show him standing at a counter talking to a clerk, wearing a baseball hat, what looks like a hooded sweatshirt and a large backpack.

McKay, 31, has been missing since Dec. 31 when he apparently walked away from the Best Western Mountain Lake Inn on Lake Flower Avenue. He was last seen on the railroad tracks near the federal prison in Ray Brook, heading east toward Lake Placid. McKay was reportedly carrying a large backpack and wearing a winter jacket and snow pants, possibly dark colored.

A member of the Australian Army, McKay flew to the U.S. on Dec. 29 and traveled by bus to Saranac Lake, arriving Dec. 30. He was reported missing by his father on Jan. 3 after he received an email from his son saying he was giving him all his possessions. Police have said McKay suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. McKay’s family hadn’t known about him going to the U.S.

Village Police Chief Bruce Nason said this morning that Lt. Col. Robert Crawford of the Australian Defence Force was in the area this week to help with the search. Crawford works in Washington D.C., Nason said.

“He came up for a couple of days, got briefed on what we have so far, gave us what we need as far as who to contact (in Australia),” Nason said. “He’s helped speed up the communication from here overseas. He left last night to go back to Washington, D.C. He will come back as needed.”

On Thursday, eight state Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers were involved in the search, including two assigned as spotters on a state police helicopter. The search is focused on the area between Ray Brook and Lake Placid and will continue today, Nason said.

The fact that McKay was wearing winter-weather clothing and had a large backpack when last seen, coupled with his military experience and physical fitness, has led police to believe that he’s well prepared to survive outside in winter conditions. However, rangers so far “haven’t found anything that would show signs of him in the backcountry,” Nason said.

Police continue to follow up on other leads, including sightings of someone walking with a backpack near Tupper Lake, Childwold and Potsdam.

“What we’ve learned is his unit is on break, so some of the people he works with are also on break, so getting in contact with people is taking a little longer than we would like,” Nason said. “There is one person who relayed to his family that he had made mention something about going to Gettysburg, so we’ve reached out to law-enforcement agencies in that area and the National Parks police.”

Nason said McKay isn’t due to return from leave until Jan. 20.

Anyone with information about McKay’s whereabouts is asked to contact village police at at 518-891-4428 or DEC dispatch at 518-897-1300.

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or