Belfast Telegraph

This is a bad dream: Emiliano Sala’s father 'desperate' as body visible in plane wreckage footage

A privately-funded search operation found the aircraft in waters north of Guernsey on Sunday.

Handout still from footage captured by a remotely-operated vehicle, showing the wreckage of the aircraft carrying Emiliano Sala (AAIB)
Handout still from footage captured by a remotely-operated vehicle, showing the wreckage of the aircraft carrying Emiliano Sala (AAIB)
A tribute to Emiliano Sala during the FA Cup fourth round match at the Liberty Stadium (Simon Gallowa/PA)

Emiliano Sala’s father has spoken of his anguish and disbelief after wreckage of the plane carrying the missing Cardiff footballer was discovered in the English Channel.

A body is visible in seabed video footage of the wreckage of the plane. The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said the footage was filmed using an underwater remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) which was surveying the area after the plane was located in waters north of Guernsey on Sunday.

Analysis of the footage by AAIB investigators confirmed the wreckage was of the missing Piper Malibu aircraft, which disappeared in poor weather near Guernsey on January 21.

The image shows the rear left side of the fuselage, including part of the aircraft registration, N264DB.

A decision has yet to be taken on whether to raise the wreckage to the surface.

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Graphic showing location of aircraft wreckage (PA Graphics)

“I cannot believe it. This is a dream. A bad dream. I am desperate,” Horacio Sala told local broadcaster Cronica TV.

“I communicated with them every day, but since I do not have WhatsApp it’s hard to call them or call me.

“They told me that the days passed and there was no news of Emiliano or the plane.”

I cannot believe it. This is a dream. A bad dream. I am desperate Emiliano Sala's father

The Piper Malibu N264DB that had been carrying 28-year-old Sala and pilot David Ibbotson, 59, disappeared over the English Channel on January 21 after leaving Nantes in France for Cardiff.

Two vessels, including one commissioned by the AAIB, using sonar had been taking part in a fresh search covering an area of around four square nautical miles.

Marine scientist David Mearns, the director of Blue Water Recoveries, led a team on the search vessel FPV Morven while the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) also sent a team aboard its the Geo Ocean III.

Mr Mearns tweeted: “Wreckage of the plane carrying Emiliano Sala and piloted by David Ibbotson was located early this morning by the FPV MORVEN. As agreed with the AAIB they moved the GEO OCEAN III over the position we provided them to visually identify the plane by ROV.

“The families of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson have been notified by Police. The AAIB will be making a statement tomorrow. Tonight our sole thoughts are with the families and friends of Emiliano and David.”

The privately-funded operation on behalf of the Sala family was made possible after a campaign raised more than £260,000 to pay for it.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Mearns said: “This is about the best result we could have hoped for the families.

“But tonight they have heard devastating news and in respect of the families I won’t comment any further about what has happened.”

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Emiliano Sala’s sister Romina (left) and mother Mercedes (centre) with Blue Water Recoveries director David Mearns (Joe Giddens/PA)

Earlier on Sunday, Mr Mearns, who claims to have located more than 20 major shipwrecks during his career, said the AAIB had a “high confidence level” the plane would be in the search zone.

It has been an anxious and heartbreaking time for the Argentinian striker’s family since his plane disappeared.

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

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”.

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.

Cardiff had signed the footballer for a club record £15 million and he was due to start training last month.

The club has paid tribute to Sala since, and won an emotionally-charged home clash with Bournemouth 2-0 on Saturday – their first game at home since the incident.

“The best,” Cardiff manager Warnock replied when asked about the two performances since Sala’s disappearance.

“I can’t be more proud. If we didn’t get another point this year, I’d still think the players have been amazing.

“I look around the dressing room, the characters and where they’ve come from, and know I couldn’t ask any more of any of them.”

PA

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