SARANAC LAKE — The search continued on Monday here for an Australian man last seen New Year's Eve.
Paul McKay, 31, was walking along Route 86 toward Lake Placid at approximately 11 a.m. Dec. 31, police say.
Saranac Lake Police Chief Bruce Nason said McKay has no known contacts here: no family, no known friendships or other local ties.
But they are in touch with his father, John, in Australia.
“He is from Canberra, Australia,” Nason said of the younger McKay. “He flew to the U.S. and arrived in Newark airport on the 30th of December. From there, he took a bus and ended up in Saranac Lake.”
McKay is an active member of the Australian Army. And police are working with army officials in Australia, backtracking to see what McKay did at home in the days before he left.
“So far, we have no idea why he chose to come to Saranac Lake. His relatives had no idea he was even thinking of coming to the States,” Nason said.
LEFT ON FOOT
McKay checked into the Best Western Mountain Lake Inn in Saranac Lake on Dec. 30 and left the next day on foot, police said.
The soldier had sent an email to his father from the hotel, indicating he would not return to Australia, according to police. In his email message, McKay apparently gave his personal property to his father.
He left the hotel wearing a large backpack.
“There were some belongings left at the hotel,” Nason said. “He had a backpack with him, but we don’t know what he had in the backpack.”
Police have not released a description of the missing man’s backpack, using that as a method to prove positive identification from incoming public reports.
The Australian soldier is not married and has no children, Nason said.
McKay’s family is helping police track bank records.
“The last entry in his financial record indicates a transaction on the (Dec.) 31st,” Nason said.
McKay stopped to eat before walking away from the village.
“He paid cash for breakfast in Saranac Lake,” the police chief said.
At about 11:30 a.m., a passing motorist spotted McKay not far from Turtle Pond, headed east.
Turtle Pond is just before the railroad crossing outside the village limit.
Area law enforcement agencies are working together to search the forest trails and the tracks around where McKay was last seen.
“We’ve reached out to the Department of Environmental Conservation, State Police and surrounding law enforcement agencies. DEC has been helpful in searching areas in Ray Brook near the railroad tracks.”
Without more information, it was proving difficult to isolate a search sector.
Officials are very concerned because of the bitter, sub-zero temperatures late last week after the New Year arrived. Saranac Lake dipped to 26 below zero.
McKay’s father told police that his son suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, Nason said.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by trauma sometimes related to war. Police here did not know yet if McKay served in foreign war zones or if he might have fought with U.S. soldiers from this region.
Saranac Lake Police issued a missing person’s report on Friday evening after receiving information from McKay's family. They released a photograph taken of the missing man last summer.
McKay’s hometown, Canberra, is about 170 miles southwest of Syndey, Australia.
Police said the Australian soldier is 6 feet 1 inches tall and weighs 170 pounds; he has brown hair and hazel eyes.
Anyone who may have seen McKay should contact Saranac Lake Police at 891-4428.
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