A man who went missing in Derry five days ago appears to have gone for a swim in the River Foyle without knowing the dangers, his sister has said.
Siobhan Ahearne was speaking ahead of public searches getting under way this morning to try and locate her older brother, Sam Comber, who has not been seen since Sunday.
Siobhan said her family is devastated by his disappearance and are now in limbo. Sam (39) is originally from Leicestershire and relocated to a rural area outside Newbuildings in Derry approximately one year ago.
The family were this morning due to lead searches along the river, with a new ‘Help Find Our Sam’ Facebook page set up.
Volunteers have been asked to gather at the carpark beside Foyle Search and Rescue at 9am.
His sister said the keen swimmer’s clothes and belongings were discovered on Tuesday on the banks of the River Foyle, close to where he lived. Sam’s bike was also found tied up.
Police in Derry said it is believed that Sam bought items from a supermarket at Quayside Shopping Centre in Derry at 2.25 pm on Sunday before cycling towards the Peace Bridge.
They have also confirmed that Sam’s bike was later found in a lay-by near Newbuildings.
His sister said: “We believe he was heading home. His bike was chained to a rack.
“We believe he thought he would have a swim, as he absolutely loves swimming. He sometimes makes decisions like that. He took his clothes and bag off, but he obviously had no idea about the river.
“My brothers live in Leitrim and, when he is there, he’ll just go and jump in a lake; he goes to the swimming pool in Derry every week.”
Siobhan said her brother was very active and is “big into swimming and big into motorbikes.”
“Those are his two big things. He was actually at the North West 200 last Saturday and he had the best time of his life up there.”
Siobhan said the family was devastated and one of her brothers is desperately trying to return from a holiday with his family on an island off Africa, but is unable to get a flight until Sunday. “We just all want to be together,” she added. “Sam’s mum and dad are absolutely in bits. We just want to find him.”
Siobhan, who lives in Letterkenny, only learned her brother was missing several days later and was travelling to Derry last night with the rest of her family to meet with a team of expert search volunteers to discuss future searches.
“We are currently in limbo and we know it doesn’t look good and he has been missing since Sunday.
“Everyone is just gutted. There’s a lot of people very, very upset, including his next door neighbour - my brother adored him and he was like a second father, and was very good to my brother.”
Siobhan described her brother as a “gentle lone ranger;” a friendly, happy guy who likes his own company and has a great sense of humour.
She urged everyone to keep an eye out for her brother as they go about their daily business.
In a post to the Help Find Our Sam Facebook page concerning this morning’s search, it states: “We are planning to walk along the pathways on both sides of the river, in the area of the Foyle Search headquarters towards the Strabane direction.
“If anyone is out with drones that would be great, but please first contact Foyle Search and Rescue to let them know which area you will be covering.
“We recommend hi-vis vests and walking shoes and please stay in groups of 2 or more.
“We would appeal to any joggers or walkers to be extra vigilent when walking alongside the river.
“Finally from the bottom of our hearts thank you for all for your kind words and offers of help. Thank you to the Glenn family who despite their own tragedy have been so eager to help, even as their own grief is still so raw. Thank you to all of the search and rescue teams for the fantastic work you volunteer to do.
Police at Strand Road in Derry said earlier this week they were becoming increasingly concerned for the welfare of Sam Christopher Comber, who was also known as Sam Harold.
Inspector Marty Mullan said: “Sam is described as being of slim build with short hair, shaved at the sides and longer on top. When last seen, he was wearing a black hooded top with grey sleeves. He was wearing black tracksuit bottoms with three blue stripes down the side and white trainers with black around the laces and was carrying a rucksack.
“Sam, or anyone who knows of his whereabouts, is asked to contact the Duty Inspector at Strand Road on the non-emergency number 101 quoting reference 157 of 16/05/17.”