Emiliano Sala's plane wreckage found in English Channel during underwater search for missing Premier League striker

Emiliano Sala's plane wreckage found in English Channel during underwater search for missing Premier League striker

February 3, 2019

The wreckage was discovered and identified by shipwreck hunter David Mearns this morning.

The Piper Malibu N264DB disappeared over the Channel on January 21.

Pilot David Ibbotson, 59, the other man on board, was taking Sala to Cardiff from Nantes where he was to start playing for his new club in the Premier League.

An official search operation was called off on January 24 after Guernsey's harbour master Captain David Barker said the chances of survival following such a long period were "extremely remote".

The wreckage of the aircraft was found this morning by Mr Mearns, who directed a privately-funded search operation north of Guernsey on behalf of the Sala family.

This is about the best result we could expect for the families but is devastating news

A separate hunt was carried out by the Air Accident Investigation Branch [AAIB].

Search boats found the wreckage using state-of-the-art sonor technology to scour the seabed. The privately-funded operation was made possible after a campaign raised more than £260,000 to fund it.

Mr Mearns said: "A plane carrying Emiliano Sala and piloted by Dave Ibbotson has been located.

"It was located earlier this morning by my crew. In agreement with the AAIB, as soon as it was located their vessel moved in over the wreckage and has been conducting all of the investigations.

"The families have been informed and the AAIB will be making a statement tomorrow morning. This is about the best result we could expect for the families but is devastating news."

Sala's plane vanished at around 8.30pm on January 21, with aviation experts claiming ice on the wings could have caused it to crash into the Channel.

The footie ace sent WhatsApp messages to his friends as the plane lurched in rough conditions, saying the plane “looks like it’s going to fall apart”.

He wrote: "Boys, I'm here on top of the plane that looks like it's about to fall apart. And I'm going to Cardiff, crazy, tomorrow we already started. In the afternoon we started to train, boys, in my new team.”

Sala later sent another message saying: “If you do not have any more news from in an hour and a half, I don’t know if they need to send someone to find me…I am getting scared!”

PILOT TOLD PALS HE WAS 'A BIT RUSTY'

Married dad-of-three Mr Ibbotson, from Scunthorpe, told pals he was feeling 'a bit rusty' just days before the doomed aircraft vanished with the £15million football ace on board.

The plane had requested to descend then lost contact with Jersey air traffic control.

Two seat cushions, which are likely to have come from the plane, were found earlier this week.

The AAIB was advised by its French counterparts on Monday that part of a cushion was found on a beach near Surtainville on the Cotentin Peninsula. A second cushion was found in the same area later that day.

Football agent Willie McKay, who brokered the deal, said the incident had "been an absolute nightmare for us".

He said that if he had not allowed Sala to return to his old club to say goodbye to his former teammates and put his beloved dog Nala in kennels "he would still be with us".

Last week it was revealed how the agent's chosen pilot David Henderson, 60, subbed the job to Mr Ibbotson after asking: "Do you want to spend a weekend in Nantes?"

Argentinian striker Sala was signed by Cardiff for a club record £15million.

Fans paid tribute yesterday by laying scarfs, daffodils and caps ahead of their clash with Bournemouth, their first home game since Sala vanished. They won 2-0.

















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