As the snow finally melts in the Australian mountains where hiker Prabhdeep Srawn disappeared last May, his family is sending an expert team of B.C. search and rescue professionals to look for him.
Srawn's family is financing an expedition of 18 search and rescue professionals, most of whom cut their teeth in the rugged mountains of B.C., to New South Wales for an intensive two-week search beginning on Dec. 1. The team members are all volunteering their time.
Srawn, 25, a former military reservist in Hamilton, was last seen heading out for a bushwalk in Kosciuszko National Park. Search efforts by Australian crews, as well as by Srawn's own family, have turned up no sign of him so far. The B.C. team will hone in on several locations, including the mountainous Hannel's pass area.
Some in the Srawn family, who live in Brampton, Ont., are optimistic about this one last effort to find their loved one.
"The hope is to ultimately put an end to this search and find my cousin," said Ruby Singh-Sahota.
"The unknown is very difficult," Singh-Sahota said. "It's hard for me … there's a lot of mixed emotions."
Martin Colwell, President of the Vancouver-based company SAR Technology, is the search manager.
Colwell, who has over 30 years of experience in the search and rescue field, told CBC Hamilton his first step will be to divide the search area up. From there, relying on a mathematical system that factors in a range of geographic and weather conditions, the team to specific zones. "You want to extract the best coverage," Colwell said.
The search team comes from a province that averages 1,000 search and rescue calls a year.
But Colwell cautions while some of Kosciuszko's flat, boulder-covered areas will be relatively easy for the B.C. team to scour, others, like dense brush-covered land and mountain gullies, will be more difficult.
Given how long Srawn, who Colwell calls "Prab," has been missing, there will be a "safety limit" to the lengths the team will go to.
Finding Srawn is a "doable" mission, Colwell says, pointing out his team will probably get around 60 search assignments done while they're there.
Singh-Sahota, meanwhile, said the family is optimistic this search will get results. Unlike previous searches, which were day-to-day, this effort will be more organized — focusing on two of Kosciuszko National Park's tallest peaks, Mt. Kosciuszko and Mt. Townsend. Srawn had intended to summit both before he went missing.
The Srawn family is paying for the search team's travel and expenses. They had previously offered a $50,000 reward to anyone who could find him alive.