Mayor appeals for minute's silence as family recall 'chirpy, soccer-mad' fan

 

IRISH SOCCER supporter James Nolan (21) was remembered by his family as “chirpy and soccer-mad” at an emotional press conference yesterday in Poland.

Mr Nolan’s family identified his body after it was recovered from the river Brda in the northern city of Bydgoszcz on Wednesday, four days after he went missing during a Euro 2012 trip with friends.

Local police have described his death yesterday as a “tragic accident” with no sign of foul play. The city mayor has appealed to Uefa to observe a minute’s silence at a quarter-final match to remember the dead man. Bydgoszcz locals lit candles at the riverside where his body was found. Irish flags were on display, including at half-mast at the town hall.

Attending yesterday’s press conference were Mr Nolan’s brother Andrew, Andrew’s girlfriend Sophie, his uncle, Patrick Nolan, and brother-in-law Gareth. They were met on arrival in Poland by Irish Ambassador Eugene Hutchinson.

Andrew Nolan broke down as he described how his brother’s “holiday of a lifetime ended in tragedy”.

Reading a statement on behalf of his father, Jimmy, he described James as a humorous young man who was studying hard and loved his family and friends.

Patrick Nolan read a family statement expressing thanks to the Bydgoszcz mayor and local emergency services for their swift reaction, as well as to local media for spreading information about the missing man.

He expressed his gratitude to the Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, and to the Ambassador and his staff for their support.

Asked if the family had been concerned at Mr Nolan heading to Poland for the tournament, Patrick Nolan replied: “No. And now that we have come over we have even less concern.”

The family were expected to leave Poland yesterday evening, with Ryanair flying the body free of charge to Ireland.

An autopsy conducted yesterday in Bydgoszcz revealed no physical injuries and indicated drowning as the cause of death.

Forensic divers had been searching for a body in the river Brda since Monday. They suspected that Mr Nolan may have drowned after being separated from his friends at the bar where he was last seen, some 200m from the river. CCTV footage showed Mr Nolan walking at 1.46am on Sunday morning towards the Bydgoszcz cathedral. His body, along with his credit card, mobile phone and a wallet were found in the river on Wednesday.

Wlodzimierz Marszalkowski from Bydgoszcz south public prosecutor’s office said an investigation for involuntary manslaughter would be carried out, although the circumstances did not indicate a violent death. “Everything speaks for a tragic accident,” he said.

Bydgoszcz mayor Rafal Bruski offered the family his condolences: “On behalf of the Bydgoszcz people I would like to express my deepest sorrow and solidarity with the family members, the city inhabitants, the Irish people and all Euro 2012 football fans.”

He has also appealed to Uefa president Michel Platini to observe a minute’s silence in memory of James before the quarter-final football match.

“It would be a symbolic gesture of respect from all of us, showing that in such moments the great football family is united,” he wrote in a letter to Platini.

“Let us pay tribute to the Irish – the best supporters of the tournament, and let it be a day of solidarity with those who are the most affected by this untimely death,” Mr Bruski added in a separate statement.

Tournament organisers are expected to discuss the request today.