Belfast Telegraph

Officials searching for Cardiff's Emiliano Sala 'not expecting anyone to be alive' after plane goes missing

Officials searching for missing Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala have said that they are “not expecting anyone to be alive” as they continue to search for a missing plane in the English Channel, more than 14 hours after it disappeared from radar.

The 28-year-old footballer was one of two people on a light aircraft travelling from Nantes to Cardiff, having agreed a £15m transfer from the French cities Ligue 1 club to the Premier League side on Saturday.

But his flight, due to land in Cardiff at around 9pm on Monday night, did not arrive and authorities have confirmed that he was on board the Piper Malibu light aircraft that disappeared near Alderney, not far from the Casquets lighthouse.

Speaking to the Associated Press, chief executive of the Channel Islands Air Search, John Fitzgerald said: "We are not expecting anyone to be alive. I don't think the coastguard are either. We just don't know how it disappeared."

Fitzgerald added that the plane "just completely vanished. There was no radio conversation."

In an earlier statement, Fitzgerald confirmed that initial attempts to search for any wreckage had to be abandoned in the early hours of Tuesday morning as conditions worsened, before resuming at 8am. Both French and British maritime authorities have been involved in the search, which has been carried out by five aircrafts and two lifeboats across the surrounding area of the Channel Island Alderney.

"We were called out by Guernsey Coastguard at 8.30pm, just as the aircraft had dropped off the radar and we were over Alderney by about 9pm,” Fitzgerald added.

"We stayed there until midnight before we flew back to Guernsey to change over the crew and refuel.

"There was about 15 to 20 miles visibility so we could see quite a lot during the first search but the lifeboats found it quite difficult. That area is always quite rough but from 1,000 feet, we can see straight down.

"It was not that bad but at about 2 or 3am wintry showers set in and the search was postponed. We went out again at 8am."

The latest update from Guernsey Police came at 11:45am that stated there was “no trace of the aircraft” despite more than 1,000sq miles being searched for by the Joint Emergency Services Control Centre.

More to follow

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(PA Graphics)

Cardiff chairman Mehmet Dalman earlier told the Mirror:  “We are very concerned by the latest news that a light aircraft lost contact over the Channel last night.

“We are awaiting confirmation before we can say anything further. We are very concerned for the safety of Emiliano Sala.”

Sala had signed a three-and-a-half year deal with the Welsh club after scoring 12 Ligue 1 goals in 19 appearances this season.

Both French and British maritime authorities are searching the English Channel. Guernsey Police posted on Twitter on Tuesday morning that the search had resumed at 8am but that there was still no trace of the plane.

It read: “Searching for the light aircraft PA 46 Malibu resumed at 8am this morning. No trace has currently been found.

“It was en route from Nantes, France to Cardiff, Wales with 2 people. More info when available.”

Sala, a native of Santa Fe in Argentina, played at youth level for Club Proyecto Crecer in his home country before being snapped up by French club Bordeaux in 2010.

He was then sent out on a series of loans to Orleans, Niort and Caen and after failing to make more than a handful of appearances for Bordeaux, Sala joined Nantes in 2015.

It was in Brittany that his career began to flourish.

Sala’s hat-trick against Toulouse in October 2018 was the first by any Nantes player in Ligue 1 since 2006.

Cardiff signed the forward in a deal reportedly worth in the region of £15million, breaking the previous record of £11million paid for Gary Medel in 2013.

Press Association

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