A MASSIVE effort involving voluntary and statutory agencies as well as family members and friends is continuing in the heartbreaking search for two missing Navan men as every effort is made to return them to their families before Christmas.
The search for John Stokes (49) from St Patrick’s Park in Navan who is missing since 18th November is now in his third week, while 36-year-old Derek Gallagher from Silverlawn was last seen at around 10.30pm last Thursday, 30th November.
Gardai and family members are appealing for any information that may assist in the search and are urging people out walking along the rivers Boyne and Blackwater to keep a look out.
The search operation for John Stokes was in its 12th day on Friday, when it emerged that a man may have entered the river in Navan. All available resources have been deployed in the search for both men as teams painstakingly comb the rivers and banks.
Gardai are co-ordinating the search with Meath Civil Defence, and several other statutory and voluntary groups have been assisting including the Garda Underwater Unit, the Garda Air Support Unit, the Defence Forces, Meath River Rescue, Leinster River Rescue and the Boyne Fishermen Rescue and Recovery Service.
“As much as can be done is being done between all the agencies. There were seven or eight boats out at the weekend on Saturday and Sunday. A lot of resources are being put into the search but unfortunately there has been no sign,” said Meath Civil Defence Officer Michael Fitzsimons.
He is asking people walking along the rivers to keep and eye out and to contact Gardai immediately if they spot anything so that resources can immediately be directed to the area. He is also urging people to be very careful while walking along the banks saying it is very easy to slip.
Missing... John Stokes
Civil Defence teams from neighbouring counties also joined in the search at the weekend with boats, drones and a cadaver search dog and an army engineering corps is in Navan to assist in the search this week.
Superintendent Michael Devine is appealing to farmers with land by the rivers to check their lands daily for any sign of anything that could assist Gardai.
“All statutory bodies available to us and voluntary bodies available to us have been out there searching continuously since 18th November. Every effort is being made to try and bring the searches to a conclusion, hopefully before Christmas. It is very difficult on those involved particularly the family members,” he said.
Up to 30 members of the Stokes extended family and friends have been out at the riverbanks daily, helping to find John. The family is now trying to verify CCTV footage which may have shown John on the night he disappeared as well as track down a passing taxi that may provide valuable information.
John was last seen by a friend between 11pm and midnight on 18th November.
Brother-in-law Gerry Mongan, who has travelled up from Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim says a huge area of land and river around the town has now been searched, despite high waters.
“John is 5’6’ , of slim build and was wearing a black jacket, grey jeans and a black shirt when he was last seen. He is a very quiet fellow that keeps to himself and he’s not known to go away from his family for any length of time without contacting someone,” he said.
Meath River Rescue Chairperson Christopher Rennicks said the river has been so high and so fast it has been unsafe to dive up to now but they are hoping to dive tomorrow (Wednesday).
He paid tribute to all the volunteers with all the different organisations who have been involved in the search. “Volunteers from every organisation have turned up to help. Everyone is determined to bring them home and bring closure for the families.”
“It’s very hard on the families. We are doing everything in our power to keep the search going and bring it to a conclusion.”