BYDGOSZCZ, Poland >> Police divers searching for an Irish soccer fan missing in northern Poland found a man’s body floating in a canal today, officials said.
The corpse was discovered in the waters of a channel flowing through the city of Bydgoszcz, where 21-year-old James Nolan, of Blessington, County Wicklow, disappeared early Sunday. The body hasn’t yet been identified, police spokesman Maciej Daszkiewicz said.
It was found lying face down in fast-flowing water of the Bydgoszcz Canal and trapped by a weir that runs across it. The canal is an offshoot of the city’s Brda River, and brings water for a small hydro electric plant.
Police and firefighters, some in boats and others handling dogs, had been searching along the river, canal and adjacent waste ground Tuesday and again today. Moments before the body was found, two divers in an inflatable dinghy were seen speeding toward the site. A police cordon was quickly set up around the area, which is near a museum and a church.
Prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into the case and witnesses were being questioned, police spokeswoman Monika Chlebicz said. Four high-ranking Irish police officers already in Poland to monitor fan behavior at the European Championship, have been diverted to the case, Irish media said. Nolan’s father, Jimmy, was also traveling to Bydgoszcz.
Nolan was in Poland for Euro 2012 to follow Ireland, which has now been eliminated from the soccer tournament. He had been traveling with friends in a rented camper van, but was also registered at a hotel on the city’s outskirts. He was last seen visiting local bars after watching televised games in a fan zone Saturday night.
A time-stamped photo on a friend’s phone is the last trace authorities have of Nolan, police said. The image shows him with his friends at 2 a.m. Sunday, but everything after that is a mystery, one compounded by the blurry memory of friends who had been drinking.
Nolan’s friends told Irish media they had a brief confrontation inside a market square pub, but Nolan wasn’t directly involved. They said they got separated once they were outside the pub.
More than 100 police officers have been searching for Nolan, and photos of the Irishman have been plastered around the city.
Nolan’s phone has been out of service since around the time he was last photographed. After his friends woke up Sunday morning, they tried calling Nolan in his hotel room and only then realized he had never returned there.
They then returned to the riverside bars where they had been the night before to look for him, but about 15 hours lapsed before they reported him missing.
Police said they have no information pointing to foul play and that so far they are treating Nolan as a missing person.
Nolan had left his passport at the hotel and only had about 300 zlotys ($90) on him, police said. A credit card he was carrying has not been used since his disappearance.
In Ireland, Nolan’s parents said they had expected a call from their son Sunday because it was Father’s Day, but it never came.