East Kootenay searchers help look for missing man in Australia

Canadian disappeared in May while hiking near Australia’s highest peak; local volunteers are on their way down under to help in the search.

Prabhdeep Srawn

Four East Kootenay volunteers are bound for Australia to take part in the search for a Canadian man missing in Australia’s high country since May.

Originally from Hamilton, Ontario, Prabhdeep Srawn was attending university in Australia. In May, he travelled to the Snowy Mountains region to hike the country’s highest peak, Mount Kosciuzsko, at 2,228 metres in elevation.

However, soon after Srawn set out, a snowstorm hit the region, dumping up to 30 centimetres of snow, and the 25-year-old military reservist has not been seen since.

A large air and land search for Srawn was called off in June when winter set into the alpine region. Srawn’s family quickly launched a private search using Australian experts, hikers and helicopters, joined by off-duty members of the Canadian armed forces. They too had to turn back in July because of poor weather.

The state police force resumed a search for Srawn this week, as summer settles into the rocky, mountainous Kosciuzsko National Park.

As well, Srawn’s family is paying out of pocket to send 15 B.C. search and rescue experts to launch a separate, two-week search.

Four of those experts hail from the East Kootenay. From Kimberley Search and Rescue, Scott MacLeod and Seb Martinez have volunteered to take part. They will be joined by Tom Hopkins from Fernie Search and Rescue, and Charmaine Lingard from Sparwood Search and Rescue.

The team will be led by Vancouver-based Martin Colwell of SAR Technology.

“(Colwell) is a search manager and also a computer genius and he has a lot of statistical computerized aids in search management,” said MacLeod, one of the Kimberley volunteers.

In teams of three, they will scour a large area searching for Srawn, hoping to complete 60 missions in the two-week expedition.

The young man’s rental car was found near the trail head for Koscuizsko, but a week passed before he was reported missing and he had not left plans for his hike.

“I think the family is very realistic about what they are expecting. They have spoken of it as a recovery mission and of us finding his remains,” said MacLeod.

The family is paying for the B.C. team’s travel and expenses, but each person is donating their time.

MacLeod said the Srawn family approached B.C. Search and Rescue Association about the mission because of a deep respect for the volunteer-run organization’s Canadian efforts.

“B.C. Search and Rescue has the biggest pool of well-trained searchers in Canada,” said MacLeod. “Because of our experience in heavily forested, mountainous terrain, they went to the B.C. organization.”

MacLeod, who leaves for Australia from Vancouver on Saturday, said he volunteered partly because of the challenge of the new terrain, but mostly because he wants to help the family.

“The family is very concerned to the point that they are spending a very large amount of their own money to send us. I thought I could make a contribution and help the family out as well,” he said. “I hate this term, but they need closure. They need to know that the best effort they could have has been put out to try to find him.”

A former police officer, MacLeod now works in Victim Services in Cranbrook.

He added that the B.C. crew does not diminish the search efforts conducted by Australian personnel.

“The local authorities and Australian search teams have done what I understand is a really good job. We will just be going out a little further afield and double checking some areas that they think should be checked better,” said MacLeod. “This isn’t us second guessing them in any way, shape or form.”

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