New sweeping search for missing Australian skier

By 24th February 2009 June 28th, 2014 News, Niseko Snow Report

VOLUNTEER SEARCH AND SWEEP, WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 25, 9.30AM

A large-scale search will be performed around Hirafu. Locals and tourists are encouraged to meet outside Seicomart at 9.30am.

Please wear snow gear, and bring probes, poles and dogs if you have them. 

THE mystery deepens as to the whereabouts of missing Australia skier Scott McKay, who has not been located despite extensive searches since leaving a Japanese ski resort bar five days ago.

Authorities and Mr McKay’s family today appealed to locals and tourists at Niseko ski resort, on the northern island of Hokkaido, to join another search tomorrow.

A large group is expected to meet in front of the Seicomart supermarket, in the heart of Niseko’s main village Hirafu, to find Mr McKay, 27, an IT business owner from Brisbane. He was last seen leaving popular night time hotspot Wild Bill’s by himself last Friday at 1.30am.

"We will perform another big search tomorrow," Niseko-Hirafu safety liason officer, Derek Begley said. "Please bring snow gear, probes, poles and any dogs with a good sense of smell. We need as many people as we can – this one’s going to cover everywhere we’ve been, just to retrace steps and look everywhere. If anyone can give us a couple of hours of their time, that would be great. The more eyes the better."

Mr McKay’s father is still currently in Niseko, said Officer Begley.

Mr McKay’s friends, who were staying with him in Niseko during the time of his disappearance, have flown back to Australia today, Officer Begley said.

Authorities call Mr McKay’s case ‘a mystery’

Officer Begley said the Mr McKay would have ‘had to make an effort to get this lost’. "He’s just disappeared," he said. "The weird thing is nobody has seen him outside the bar – there is just nothing to go on. All we’ve got is what he and his friends drank, who they saw in the bars, and then from there, there’s nothing. This is weird because he left the bar at a time when there would have been heaps of people around – it’s not like he left at four or five in the morning."

Officer Begley said what has confused authorities is the weather around the time of Mr McKay’s disappearance was calm and clear, which should have made it easy to search. "On Friday, after he went missing, I went out with his buddies and we searched the whole river and you could see everything," he said. "There was no new snow, you would have seen all tracks in the area. On that night, you would have seen if anybody went anywhere. That day, it was all clear, but now we’ve got all this snow that has fallen since that is hiding everything. When Scott went missing, it was all hard-packed snow and there wasn’t any mounds or snow drifts or anything."

The search continues

Helicopters, army, divers, volunteers and an increased police presence yesterday scoured the ski resort and its surrounding area, but failed to locate Mr McKay. Even off-duty rescue and fire officers have been called in, Officer Begley said. "Police, volunteers, Hokkaido prefecture search and rescue teams and helicopters are all searching," he said. "We also have skin divers checking the nearby rivers. We’ve done five or six searches already, and today we’ve done a bunch more again," he said. "Today it’s been search and rescue once again doing their patrols."

Officer Begley said authorities and volunteers would continue to search for Mr McKay. "We can do this big search tomorrow, and then two more big ones the next day," he said.

Rescue efforts have also included the most unorthodox methods, said Officer Begley.  "It’s not like a mountain rescue, where you have to go through all these big, wild areas – it’s all in town," he said. "The only thing it could be is he is somewhere really weird like in a car, or under a building, in an abandoned house, or he’s just wandered out into the middle of nowhere, or been taken by someone. When you’re drunk you tend to stumble downhill, not walk up a mountain through metres of snow," Officer Begley added. "He wouldn’t have got far, or any more than 10m if he went straight bush."

Searches for Mr McKay were hampered by snow and strong winds earlier this week, which made it difficult for helicopters to be flown to Niseko until yesterday. The use of search and rescue dogs was also restricted, due to there only being three trained dogs in all of Hokkaido, said Officer Begley. "Two of those are drug dogs, and the other one is a mountain rescue dog, which would be ineffective because there are too many distractions in the Niseko region for it to smell."

Missing man developed device that could have saved his life

It has been reported that Mr McKay helped develop a satellite tracking device for skiers. However, former colleagues say it is unlikely Mr McKay was wearing one of the transmitters on the night he disappeared. The device reportedly uses GPS technology that allows ski instructors to monitor skiers in real time.

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