Body spotted amid wreckage of aircraft carrying Sala

FRENCH PRESS AGENCY - AFP
LONDON
Published 04.02.2019 00:42
Updated 04.02.2019 16:03
Handout video footage released by the U.K. Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) shows part of the wreckage from the missing Piper Malibu aircraft that disappeared carrying footballer Emiliano Sala lying on seabed of English Channel. (AFP Photo)
Handout video footage released by the U.K. Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) shows part of the wreckage from the missing Piper Malibu aircraft that disappeared carrying footballer Emiliano Sala lying on seabed of English Channel. (AFP Photo)

British investigators said Monday they had spotted a body in the wreckage of a plane that disappeared in the Channel two weeks ago carrying Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala and his pilot.

Sala, 28, was flying from France to join his new club, Premier League side Cardiff City, when the light aircraft disappeared on Jan. 21 north of the island of Guernsey.

A wreck was found on the seabed on Sunday and closer inspection by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) confirmed both that it was the missing plane, and that a body was inside.

"Tragically, in video footage from the ROV, one occupant is visible amidst the wreckage," the British government's Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) said in a statement.

"The AAIB is now considering the next steps, in consultation with the families of the pilot and passenger, and the police."

The AAIB also released a grainy image showing a part of the fuselage with the aircraft registration. The depth indicated on the image was 67.7 meters (222 feet).

Sala's father Horacio earlier spoke of his shock that the plane had been found, after a private search organized by the family.

"I can't believe it. It's a bad dream," he told Cronica TV from his home in Progreso, Argentina, before the news about the body was announced.

Sala was traveling in the Piper PA-46 Malibu plane after transferring from French team Nantes in a 17 million euro ($19.3 million) move -- a record deal for the Welsh team.

It vanished from radar around 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Guernsey, with British pilot David Ibbotson the only other person aboard.

David Mearns, whose private company, Blue Water Recoveries, was hired by Sala's family to search for the plane, said on Twitter that the wreckage was spotted early Sunday.

"There's a substantial amount of wreckage on the seabed," he wrote, adding: "This is about the best result we could have hoped for the families."

Top footballers were among more than 4,500 contributors to a crowdfunding page that raised over 300,000 euros ($343,000) to look for the wreckage.

Speaking after Cardiff's match against Bournemouth on Saturday, manager Neil Warnock said Sala would have been "really proud" of the team after they won 2-0 in their first home match since the plane vanished.

Program notes, penned by owner Vincent Tan and the rest of the Bluebirds' board, said events had shaken "Cardiff City to its very core" and that they were now playing for Sala and pilot Ibbotson.

There were a series of heartfelt tributes before kick-off, with Sala's photograph appearing on the front cover of the matchday program and the two captains laid floral tributes on the halfway line before what the club called a "silent reflection."

Sala's name, in the Argentina colors, was also spelled out behind one of the goals as supporters held cards aloft.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter