Irish filmmaker and cinematographer Ross McDonnell remains missing after police found a dismembered body on a New York beach.
New York police were called to Breezy Point Beach around noon Friday after someone spotted the human torso, with its legs tied and head and arms missing, lying on the sand, a spokesperson for the New York Police Department to the Times. Police described the body as having “legs tied up.”
McDonnell is believed to have gone swimming a few weeks ago at the nearby beach where the body arrived from on Friday; he has not been seen since. Authorities, who have not yet identified the body, are awaiting the results of DNA tests, the New York Post reported.
Police said the medical examiner’s office will determine the cause of death, but the person’s identity will not be released until family is notified.
However, a WNBC report citing law enforcement sources said police believed the body could be that of McDonnell. No foul play or suicide is suspected, they added: He probably went swimming, got caught in a current and drowned. The body damage was likely caused by ocean hazards such as sharp rocks.
McDonnell, 44, was last seen Nov. 4 leaving his apartment on a bicycle in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, according to multiple reports. A few days later, his bike was discovered at Fort Tilden Beach in Queens, according to a missing poster shared by Dublin-based production company Wild Atlantic Pictures.
Representatives for the production house did not immediately respond to The Times’ requests for comment.
One of McDonnell’s close friends, Gene Gallerano, told the Irish Times last week that McDonnell was believed to have been on the beach and had gone “into the ocean”.
“He was last seen last Saturday evening, the alarm was raised on Sunday, we don’t know much more,” Gallerano told the publication. “It’s been a very, very emotional week.”
McDonnell, originally from Dublin, recently moved to New York and traveled often for work. He is best known for his documentary film work, having co-directed “Colony” in 2009, which chronicled the mass disappearance of bee colonies across the United States. The film premiered that year at the Toronto International Film Festival and won a prestigious award at the International Documentary. Amsterdam Film Festival.
McDonnell also received news and documentary Emmys for his cinematography on the Showtime documentary series “The Trade” and a 2021 COVID-19 documentary “The First Wave.” He is a 2024 Cinema Eye Honors nominee as cinematographer in the Jimmy Chin-hosted National Geographic series “Edge of the Unknown,” which is streaming on Disney+.
McDonnell’s work as a photographer and photojournalist can be found in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Fader. In 2021, he released a photo series that spanned almost a decade, during which he documented Irish youth experiencing one of Europe’s largest urban renewal projects, centered in Dublin. He focused on the suburb of Ballymun and hoped to carry out other projects in the area.
“After many years of photography in Ballymun, I still feel very close to these guys, and we are still friends today,” he told the Photo Museum Ireland last year. “Looking ahead, I think it’s time to think about what I can do with and for the Ballymun community, in terms of reciprocity through my photography.”
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