James Nolan: Taking his body home ‘will bring an end to nightmare’
THE family of tragic Ireland supporter James Nolan will fly home with his body as early as today to "begin the process of trying to bring this nightmare to an end".
After arriving in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz to identify and bring home the 21-year-old's body, his uncle Pat and brother Andrew (27) paid an emotional tribute to the "happy-go-lucky" guy who "always looked on the bright side of life".
Mr Nolan drowned in an accident after going missing in the early hours of Sunday morning, during a trip to Poland to support Ireland in Euro 2012.
He was last seen by his friends in the city centre after a night out. CCTV footage showed him turning down a poorly lit area by the River Brda, which flows through the city.
He was found in the river on Wednesday morning.
Pat Nolan, who broke down on a few occasions during last night's press conference, said the family had been "deeply touched and overwhelmed" by messages of support.
He and Andrew were accompanied by Andrew's girlfriend Sophie Dennison and James's brother-in-law Gareth Dudely. Earlier yesterday, they paid a poignant visit to the spot where James's body was recovered on Wednesday morning and threw flowers in the water.
A number of his friends, including Aaron Eustace and Adam Cullen, are also still in the city. They also visited the place James was found to leave a candle for their friend, and saw that many Polish locals had done so too.
"What started out as the trip of a lifetime has sadly ended with the loss of James's life," Pat Nolan said. "But we can take comfort in the fact that we are bringing James home to his family so we can begin the process of trying to bring this nightmare to an end."
He also thanked the gardai, Polish police, embassy officials here, and the Polish and Irish public "for all their sympathy and widespread efforts to spread information about James during the search".
Andrew, who was also tearful, brought a message from his father Jimmy, mother Essie and sister Susie, who have remained home in Carrig Glen, near Blessington, Co Wicklow.
"Jimmy, Essie, Susie and myself would like to thank everybody for their help and support in these difficult times. Our close families, our neighbours in Carrig Glen and the surrounding areas. Also to all of James's friends who travelled with him to Poland and of course his friends at home.
"To anyone who helped out in any way shape or form, it is very much appreciated. Without this kind of support it would be very difficult to get through this type of situation."
The family intend bringing James home today if possible, if not tomorrow. His uncle Pat described him as a "very sensible young man".
"He did the things any 21-year-old would do. He enjoyed life, he played football, he played soccer, he went out and socialised with his friends. He drank occasionally with his friends too.
"He was happy-go-lucky, always looked on the bright side of life, the life and soul of the party, always had this infamous cheeky grin on his face. Never got in trouble, never caused offence to anyone."
The friends and family have also been inundated with messages of support from home and abroad.
The mayor of Bydgoszcz has also asked UEFA to hold a minute's silence before one of the remaining Euro 2012 games.
"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," Rafal Bruski said. "I address this appeal not only to the inhabitants of Bydgoszcz, but to all Poles."
Last night, UEFA did not return queries on the request.
Mr Bruski also said the city would commemorate James by flying tricolours around the main town square, and some tricolours with black ribbons were visible yesterday.