By Aaron Flanagan | The Mirror |
Investigators have confirmed that the body of Emiliano Sala has been recovered from the wreckage of his plane that went missing last month.
A body was pulled from the aircraft, which was found on the bottom of the ocean north of Guernsey, earlier this week.
The plane, which was carrying Sala and pilot David Ibbotson, disappeared off the radar around 8:30pm on January 21, as the Cardiff City striker was travelling from Nantes to the Welsh capital.
The investigation to find the plane was initially called off after three days, but Sala’s family raised the funds to keep the search alive, with thanks to donations from international football community.
A private search team announced that they had found the wreckage of the plane at the bottom of the English channel on February 4.
One body was inside the aircraft, which has now been successfully recovered and confirmed as being that of Sala.
Dorset Police confirmed: “The body brought to Portland Port today has been formally identified by HM Coroner for Dorset as that of professional footballer Emiliano Sala.
“The families of Mr Sala and pilot David Ibbotson have been updated. Our thoughts remain with them all.”
Investigators used remotely operated vehicles were used to help pull the body out of the water “in as dignified a way as possible” despite “challenging conditions” in the recovery, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said.
The whereabouts of Mr Ibbotson remain unclear at this time.
The Piper Malibu plane, registration N264DB, was found 67 metres underwater 21 miles off the coast of Guernsey and weather conditions meant that investigations were delayed.
Sala, 28, had just completed a club-record £15million transfer to Cardiff and had not made an appearance for the club.
He had travelled back to Nantes, his former club, to say his goodbyes to his former teammates.
Disaster struck on the journey back to Wales.
It has been confirmed that the plane requested to descend before it lost contact with the air control staff.
The remains of the aircraft were discovered by David Mearns, known as the “Shipwreck Hunter”, who discovered the aircraft within two hours of starting his search on a target area.
He told the Press Association the discovery had been so quick because the team had been looking for a static object rather than in a dynamic environment searching for survivors.
“No-one should walk away with the impression that the Coastguard and also the Channel Islands air search did anything other than a professional job,” he said.
The AAIB said it expected to publish an interim report within the month.
But those looking into the plane’s crash face a battle to determine the whole story.
Even if the investigators are able to retrieve the wreckage and examine it up-close, the light aircraft is unlikely to have been fitted with a flight recorder, according to the UK’s aviation regulator, which would have been a vital source of information.
Known as black boxes, they record flight data and cockpit audio, and are mandatory in airline planes and private jets – but not for the Piper Malibu plane.
Sala had turned down a mega-money transfer to the Chinese Super League in favour of putting pen to paper on a three-and-a-half year contract in Cardiff.
Tributes were paid in Cardiff and in Nantes for the striker, as the search for him continued.
However, things have threatened to get nasty after Nantes threatened legal action to ensure the £15million transfer fee was paid.