Irish filmmaker Ross McDonnell remains missing as police discover body at NYC beach

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 legs attached and head and arms missing, lying on the sand, an NYPD spokesperson told The Times. Police described the body as having “attached legs.”

It is believed that McDonnell went for a swim a couple of weeks ago at the next beach over from where the body turned up Friday; he has not been seen since. Authorities, who haven’t yet identified the body, are awaiting DNA test results, the New York Post reported.

Police said that the Medical Examiner’s office would determine a cause of death but that the identity of the person wouldn’t be released until family had been notified.

However, a WNBC report citing law enforcement sources said police believe the body may be that of McDonnell. Foul play and suicide are not suspected, they added — he likely went swimming, got caught in a current and drowned. Damage to the body was likely caused by ocean hazards such as sharp rocks.

McDonnell, 44, was last seen Nov. 4 leaving his apartment on his bike in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, according to multiple news reports. Several days later, his bike was discovered at Fort Tilden Beach in Queens, according to a missing poster shared by the 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 it was believed McDonnell had been on the beach and had gone “out into the ocean.”

“He was last seen last Saturday night, the alarm was sounded on Sunday, we don’t know much more than that,” Gallerano told the publication. “It’s been a very, very emotionally heavy week.”

McDonnell, a Dublin native, was recently based in New York and traveled often for his work. He is best known for his documentary film work, having co-directed 2009‘s “Colony,” which charts the mass disappearance of bee colonies across the U.S. The movie premiered that year at the Toronto International Film Festival and won a top award at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam.

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 a cinematographer on 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 published a photo series that spanned nearly a decade, during which he documented Irish youth who experienced one of Europe’s largest urban renewal projects, centered in Dublin. He focused on the Ballymun suburb and hoped to do further projects in the neighborhood.

“After many years photographing in Ballymun, I still feel very close to those guys, and we’re still friends today,” he told Photo Museum Ireland last year. “Looking forward, I think it’s time to consider what I can do with and for the community in Ballymun, in terms of reciprocity through my photography.”

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