Experienced amateur hikers have formed a volunteer search group to assist the government's search and rescue services. The Hong Kong countryside volunteer search team was set up on May 2 to aid police and the Civil Aid Service in search and rescue. On Thursday, three co-ordinators of the group went to Sai Kung to look for a missing man, Mr Wai, 79, who has not been seen since April 5. They did not find Mr Wai, but managed to locate a witness in a restaurant in Sai Kung. 'This is our first call of service in which we participated since the team was set up,' said one searcher, Ling Kim-kwong, a retired senior police inspector. Mr Wai, who lived alone in Sha Kok Mei village, went missing after leaving home to take part in a ritual. His family reported the case to police the next day. Police said Mr Wai had talked to an employee of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department in Wong Chuk Yeung. Mr Wai's flip-flops were also found near the Wong Chuk Yeung fire lookout. Mr Ling said they conducted only a preliminary inquiry that morning. 'Sometimes it could be easier for non-governmental organisations to approach witnesses who may feel pressured when talking to investigators from authorities. Searching is different from rescuing. We only provide searching services, but the government provides both,' he said. Kwok Wing-ming, another experienced searcher who took part in the search for Mr Wai, said: 'We are now able to have direct access to the families of those missing hikers and officers who handle the cases for fast and accurate information.' On September 11, 2005, off-duty constable Ting Li-wah, 45, had a seven-minute conversation with 999 hotline staff and shouted for help before he lost contact. He had been hiking alone in Pak Tam Chung. 'His case was like a Bermuda Triangle event. He just vanished,' Mr Ling said. 'More than 100 amateur hikers participated in the search for him, but he was not found. The area where he went missing was the area in which I was in charge during my last posting before retirement. We were colleagues, and his family has members now working in the force, too. We also had quite a bit of information about his disappearance, and I feel we just can't give up.'