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Euro 2012: Irish soccer fan in Poland goes missing

- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 19, 2012

WARSAW, POLAND (AP) - Police divers searched a river in northern Poland on Tuesday for a missing Irish soccer fan who disappeared while visiting the country to follow the European Championship.

James Nolan, 21, of Blessington, County Wicklow, was last seen early Sunday in the city of Bydgoszcz after watching games in fan zones and visiting local bars with a group of Irish friends, police said.

His companions notified authorities when they realized Nolan didn't return to their hotel and wasn't answering calls.

In Ireland, Nolan's parents were distraught with his father expecting a call from his son Sunday on Father's Day after speaking to him the previous day.

"If there's anything anybody can do, we'd really appreciate it," Jimmy Nolan said during an interview Monday night on Irish state television RTE.

Fighting back tears, the father said "I know he's probably OK, but I mean, if anybody anywhere knows anything, please just let us know. Text us or ring us, or ring" the Irish police. He and his wife Essie appealed for Irish soccer fans still in Poland to help search for their son.

Divers and police robots were checking the waters of the Brda River, while officers also searched for Nolan in other parts of the city. Irish Ambassador Eugene Hutchinson was traveling to Bydgoszcz on Tuesday.

Police and local media have posted his photo on their websites, and officers were checking hospitals, basements, attics and abandoned buildings. Police were also reviewing security camera footage from restaurants and bars in central Bydgoszcz. Taxi and bus drivers were displaying "missing" leaflets with Nolan's photo on their windshields.

The search was also expended to the city of Torun, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away. Nolan, who has dark blonde hair and blue eyes, was last seen wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt with an image of Chuck Norris. He is 1.6 meters tall (5 feet, 2 inches).

A Twitter campaign aimed at finding Nolan, who studies environment engineering at Tallaght Institute of Technology in Dublin, was launched in Ireland with the hashtags (hashtag)FindJames and (hashtag)JamesNolan.

Nolan and a group of around 10 Irish friends arrived in Bydgoszcz on Saturday, making a stop en route from Gdansk to Poznan, where Ireland was playing matches against Croatia and Spain, said Krzysztof Schramm, deputy honorary consul of Ireland in Poznan. While in a bar, they possibly became involved in a dispute with a group of Poles, Schramm said.

Police didn't confirm this and said that Nolan's friends were still being questioned and that there was no mention of trouble with Poles in their initial statement.

Ireland has been eliminated from Euro 2012 after losing all three of its group matches.

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Associated Press writer Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin contributed to this report.

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