Prabh went missing on the 13th of May 2013 while on a hike in the Kosciuszko national park New South Wales Australia . It was not until a week after he had been missing that someone noticed he had never made it back from his hike. The alarm was raised by the rental car company whom Prabh had been renting a vehicle through. This led to one of the largest and most expensive searches ever undertaken for a missing person. This is my story about the time and the energy I put into searching for Prabhdeep Srawn.
I first heard about Prabh on the radio. From the instant I heard about him being missing, I was caught up in the story I wanted to get out there and help look for him. For the next few days I keenly watched the news to wait for any information regarding Prabh, I hoped he would be found as soon as possible. As time wore on I began to contemplate going to search for him myself. Being from Canberra it was only a two hour drive to the Snowy Mountains where Prabh had gone missing. After a week had passed and the initial search by the Police and the SES volunteers had failed to locate Prabh, I decided I would go and search. I packed my bags that night and drove up to Charlottes Pass (Prabhs last known location) I stayed the night in my car and woke at first light eager to get up and search. I spent the day trudging through the snow making little headway. I made it back to my car that afternoon and decided that I was under prepared and I would go home but I would return again better prepared for the harsh weather. This was to be the first as well as the shortest of many trips searching for Prabh.
More time went by and still no sign of Prabh was found. Prabhs family sent out a call for help for experienced hikers to come and continue the search for him. They also put up a quite substantial reward in the case that he was found as well as a daily stipend for the searchers. During the month of June I was quite busy and I couldn’t return to the mountains to search for Prabh, but the idea never left my head. I had a friend living in Jindabyne which is the closest town to Kosciuszko NP, he ran into the family of Prabh one day and they asked him if he knew any experienced hikers who would be willing to join a search party. Knowing that I was interested he gave them my number. After a quick phone call I was on my way back to the mountains. I arrived in Jindabyne to find that the search was slowing down and that only one party was still out searching. This party consisted of Wes Batty and Mani Batti. Wes and Mani had both been part of the search basically as long as it had been going. They were an efficient team used to working together. I haven’t met anyone who spent more time or energy searching for Prabh than Wes Batty. He was the driving force during that search constantly offering encouragement. For the next three days we searched the area of the western falls down to the Geehi valley. This is some of the steepest terrain in Australia with countless cliffs and rock faces, not to mention it is also the thickest scrub I have ever tried to walk through. Add the constant rain to this and the terrain became even more deadly. We concentrated our search on following creeks down to major rivers thinking that would be most likely what Prabh would have done. The search led us down Kosciuszko creek which is one of the major waterways running of the high alpine area. At one point I nearly fell off a cliff but I was saved by Wes Batty who grabbed my hand and held onto me as I dangled over a drop of about 8 meters he managed to hold onto me one handed until Mani arrived and they managed to pull me up and back to safety. I’m 6″3 and weigh 80kgs plus a 20kg pack on makes this feat by Wes more amazing considering he is a pretty small guy! The next day we got a call on the satellite phone and we were told the weather was going to set in and we had to get out of there. knowing this we pushed our pace through the scrub going as fast as possible (which was still extremely slowly about 1-2 kilometers per hour). We finally reached the banks of the Geehi river only to find it a raging torrent which looked practically impossible to cross. Eventually we found a place where it looked possible to cross but we would have to swim. Wes and I made the swim but Mani couldn’t and was washed back onto the same bank. The decision was made that Wes and I would run ahead and meet the pick up and insure they didn’t leave without us. Mani eventually found a place to cross the river safely and joined us at the car. This was to be the last search for sometime due to the weather completely setting in for winter, and the Srawn family’s visas running out. (We did not take any unnecessary risks during this trip, the nature of the country we were searching already meant we were putting ourselves in danger)
To be continued…