‘He went out with a bang’: Tributes for father-of-five who died on Kokoda Track

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Paul Miller was doing something he always wanted to accomplish – hiking the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea – when he collapsed on Sunday.

The South Australian army veteran and father of five was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital after suffering what is believed to be a heart attack on his second day walking the track.

In a statement from Miller’s partner, Amanda Kaplan, she said he had been training and did the trek with their 17-year-old son Aaron as a fundraising effort for Operation K9 – a service that provides dogs to veterans.

South Australian Paul Miller died while trekking the Kokoda Track.Credit: Facebook

“We would love this opportunity to spread the awareness and fundraising efforts that Paul was aspiring to achieve,” she said.

Kaplan described Miller as a loving long-term partner, and father to Sarah, Amy, Sabrina, Hayley and Aaron.

He was also described as a proud veteran who joined the Australian Army in 1991, where he was deployed twice to Iraq in 2003 and 2006, East Timor in 2009 and Afghanistan in 2013.

Paul Miller and 17-year-old son Aaron on the Kokoda Trail.

“Paul served for 24 years full-time and two years in reserves. After Paul left defence he went to oil and gas industry working in a vast number of mine sites across Australia,” Kaplan said.

“Since becoming medically retired due to service-related mental health issues he has advocated for veterans and the fight for support assistance and a help up.”

Paul Miller and partner Amanda Kaplan.

In a post published on behalf of Kaplan by veterans’ group Operation Unity South Australia, she paid tribute to “my dearly loved Paul Miller”.

The post said Miller went to the Kokoda Track last week with another family member, however, collapsed not long after beginning.

“Unfortunately on the second day, Paul had what is believed to be a heart attack. Despite all efforts of assistance and of CPR, Paul was airlifted out and it has been confirmed that he had passed away on arrival at the hospital,” Kaplan said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed the death and is providing consular assistance to the man’s family.

Kaplan stated through Operation Unity SA’s post that more information would follow when Miller is released and returns home from Papua New Guinea.

“He went out with a bang – doing something that he has always wanted to do … Kokoda.”

Paul Miller with daughters Sarah and Hayley and son Aaron on Anzac Day 2019.

In a separate post to Facebook, Miller’s daughter Sarah wrote she woke up to her “whole world falling apart” when hearing the news her father passed away.

“I still don’t want to believe it. I still want to believe that Dad will call me and tell me everything will be okay,” she wrote.

“My best friend, my hero, my safety blanket is gone, but I know his memories will live on forever and I will always be meeting people that loved and knew him.”

Kokoda Track Authority chief executive Julius Wargirai said his agency was contacted by the tour group organisers and told that a man had collapsed on the walk.

“The group then continued the track,” he said.

The agency confirmed the man’s death and said local police were investigating.

The Kokoda Track is the location of a World War II battle between Japanese and Australian forces, which runs 96 kilometres through the Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea.

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