Family members and friends of missing man PJ Fanning cut a forlorn figure against the imposing backdrop of the castle at Ferrycarrig last week, as they maintained their daily vigil from dawn 'til dark, desperately awaiting news of the 34 year-old.
Originally from Harristown, Ballymitty, but now living in Ballymurn, PJ has been missing since the early hours of Sunday morning, February 24, when he was seen leaving Jim McGee's pub in town.
On Monday morning of last week, PJ's partner Mellissa Furlong discovered his 03 Audi A4, a car which he had only bought the previous Friday, in the quiet car park at Ferrycarrig with the keys still in the ignition. Gardaí were immediately notified and ever since then, a major search has focused on the Ferrycarrig area with large crews combing the river, its banks and surrounding areas. A garda missing person alert was circulated nationally on Tuesday morning.
Several organisations have taken part in the search - the local RNLI, the Civil Defence, Slaney Search and Rescue and even members of Mallow Search and Rescue who travelled specially to lend a hand.
The black rib of the Garda sub aqua unit appeared on the river from Wednesday afternoon and they began diving with worried family members looking on.
The search is taking a horrendous toll on PJ's heartbroken family, particularly his partner Mellissa who is currently four months pregnant with two other children at home. PJ is also a father to two other children, a boy and a girl.
As the search unfolded at Ferrycarrig, the difficult situation PJ's family find themselves in seems to have really struck a chord with the people of Wexford and a GoFundMe page was set up for the 'Search & Rescue of PJ Fanning'. Less than a week after being set up, it raised over three times the initial target of €1,000, with €3,210 raised at the time of going to print. Members of the public also volunteered to help with the search throughout the course of the week, those with boats heading out to search the river whenever conditions would allow.
Search efforts were somewhat hampered over the weekend as wind and torrential rain battered Wexford, however, crews from the RNLI, Slaney Search & Rescue, Mallow Search & Rescue and the Garda underwater unit all continued their efforts in challenging conditions.
Speaking yesterday, PJ's partner Mellissa urged people not to give up and appealed for additional volunteers to help out over the coming days.
'The situation remains the same here at the moment,' she said. 'The search is still ongoing. We're looking to get a lot of walkers out over the next couple of days to see if we can find him. The next few days are vital. Obviously though, we'd ask anyone taking part to be very careful and to keep their phone charged and on them.'
While garda divers were present on the river last week and a helicopter circled overhead early in the week, Mellissa says that these efforts have more or less run their course.
'The garda divers and that are all finished up now,' she said. 'They've said there's nothing more they can do. They've done their very best. We've only had the helicopter out once. I had thought it was due to come out again tomorrow, but things change every day and they could be out on other call-outs. We have had drones out looking though and sniffer dogs. Everything that can be done is being done to find him.'
While all this activity is going on, Mellissa stays watch at Ferrycarrig from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, trying her best to co-ordinate the large groups of volunteers that are arriving on a daily basis.
'I really just want to thank everyone for their support,' she said.
'It's been absolutely amazing. We've been told it's one of the biggest searches undertaken in Wexford. We've had volunteers coming out to us and people bringing out tea and coffee and sandwiches. I genuinely couldn't ask for any more.'
While Mellissa has been doing her best to co-ordinate volunteers herself, she is seeking the help of someone with strong organisational skills to lend a hand in co-ordinating the search party for the coming days.
The search is centring around Ferrycarrig car park and all help is greatly appreciated by PJ's family, as they maintain their vigil by the river side.