A group of German backpackers are keeping a vigil at an outback campground after their friend vanished in the middle of the night on Sunday.
Arvid Stenzel, 19, wandered off into the dark after telling his mates he was going for a swim at Lake Canobolas in central-western NSW about 2am.
At 3.15am, he approached a person at the campground's caretaker's cottage because he was lost. He was given directions back to where he was staying but never returned.
“We all thought it was a joke because it's too cold to swim,” a friend, Aljoscha Kraemer, said.
“This is horrible, we can't do anything ... We will just wait together until something happens."
The backpackers were camping at Lake Canobolas while they worked at a nearby orchard picking apples.
They were celebrating on Saturday night after completing six days of work, knowing Sunday was their only day off, Mr Kraemer said.
The group spent time listening to music, talking and laughing while enjoying a few drinks.
Mr Kraemer said a few of them decided to go for a walk early on Sunday morning and about 2am, as they crossed the footbridge linking both sides of the lake, Mr Stenzel told his friends he felt like going for a swim and walked off into the night.
It wasn't until the next morning that they woke to the horrifying discovery that Mr Stenzel had not returned.
“I just feel really sad,” Mr Kraemer said. “He's just such a nice guy, he was funny and a sportsman. He was the best travel mate.”
Mr Kraemer said the friends had pledged to remain at the lake until Mr Stenzel was found.
Crews expanded their search beyond the Lake Canobolas recreational park on Sunday with ground and air search involving SES and RFS volunteers.
They also conducted a search of the lake using boats from the police and SES.
On Monday, a police sniffer dog and police divers from Sydney helped to comb the lake and its foreshore, paying particular attention to the footbridge above the spillway where Mr Stenzel was last seen by his friends.
Canobolas Local Area Command Inspector Dave Harvey said: “We really haven't ruled anything out, we're just exhausting all options.”
Mr Stenzel's family was contacted by police. It is not known if they are making plans to travel to Australia.
The group, who had only been in Orange for a week, had planned to pick fruit for another month but are now unsure what the future holds.
- with the Western Advocate