A former regional daily reporter is believed to have drowned after falling overboard from a cruise ship in South America.
Bob Horn, who worked for the Sunderland Echo before retiring 10 years ago, had been on an Atlantic cruise with his brother when he is believed to have fallen from the liner shortly after a visit to Montevideo in Uruguay.
The 69-year-old enjoyed a long and distinguished career with the Echo after joining the paper following a six-month stint in Germany and working for a bank in Sunderland.
His friends and former colleagues have spoken of their shock and have paid tribute to the long-serving reporter.
Journalist Carol Robertson, a longtime friend and colleague of Bob, told the Sunderland Echo: “Bob had a sharp intellect which he often hid behind his humorous quips – he frequently read books in their original French and German and also maintained a working knowledge of Spanish.
“But was naturally reticent and he rarely talked about his intellectual pursuits, preferring to chat about the news of the day and, of course, football.”
Bob had grown up in Grindon, Sunderland, where he still lived but spent a lot of his time in Roker where his family originated from.
After the Echo relocated from the city centre to Pennywell, Bob became the paper’s district man in Houghton.
While he was still a junior reporter, he was elected treasurer of the Sunderland Branch of the National Union of Journalists.
He was well known for his eclectic knowledge which he enjoyed displaying in the Echo’s Quiz League, latterly playing for his local pub, the Hastings Hill.
Alistair Robinson, a journalism lecturer at Sunderland University and former colleague, described him as “one of the great district reporters”.
“He was incredibly intelligent, very well read, with an exceptional knowledge of literature and poetry,” he said.
“When I was a kid at the Echo, he would tell me about his travels around the world, and I always remember thinking how adventurous he was.
“He was also a real fixture in Houghton; everyone knew him and he knew everyone. He covered the courts, the police, the churches, he attended events, he really was a classic district reporter of his time.”
Linda Colling, friend and former colleague, said: “Write the first thing you would tell anybody,” was Bob Horn’s golden nugget of advice to me as a junior reporter.
“A man of few words, little Bobby was always helpful. He wrote sparingly in his notebook and had the gift of taking only the salient of points to bring a story to life.
“That was the hallmark of all Bob’s writing – a talented journalist with an abiding love and knowledge for his speciality, shipping.
“A valued friend, Bob was a character we will all keenly miss.”
Coun Colin Wakefield, from Houghton, said: “Bob covered Houghton for years and was a great servant to the area, ensuring Houghton stories were always covered by the Echo.
“It’s such sad news and my thoughts are with his family.”
Bob leaves behind a brother, David, of Roker, and nephew.
The Foreign Office said it had not been notified of the incident.