Local News

January 17, 2014

Australian hiker found dead

Man's body found on Scarface summit

RAY BROOK — Australian soldier Capt. Paul J. McKay died of suicide on the Adirondack mountain where his body was found Thursday, Essex County Coroner Francis Whitelaw ruled.

An autopsy on the man was performed at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake by Dr. C. Francis Varga, who ruled the cause of death to be arrhythmia due to hypothermia. 

A forest ranger located McKay's body on a shoulder of the Scarface Mountain summit, according to State Police.

The tragic discovery ended nearly two weeks of backcountry search efforts. McKay, 31, had been missing since Dec. 31.


Saranac Lake Police Chief Bruce Nason said in an interview Thursday that McKay did not have any shelter equipment with him on the mountain.

“He was lying on the ground covered with a blanket. He was 400 to 500 feet off the trail.”

Official notice of the Australian Army soldier’s death was made in person by members of the Australian Defense Force, Nason said.

But the police chief has since been in direct contact with McKay’s family.

“The family has been informed of this news, and we have expressed our deep sympathy for their loss,” the chief said in a statement.

“His disappearance ended tragically, and at this time we continue our investigation. This is not the outcome we had hoped for.”


Saranac Lake Police opened an investigation when McKay was reported missing by his father, John McKay, on Jan. 3.

They are still working with the Australian Consular’s office in Washington, D.C., to ascertain why McKay came to the United States without notifying anyone of his travels.

They have not found a particular reason why he chose Saranac Lake.

“We still have not been able to get any confirmed information as to why he was here,” Nason told the Press-Republican on Thursday.

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