Emiliano Sala search team recover body from plane wreckage

Sport

A body has been recovered from the wreckage of the plane which crashed with Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson on board.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch said specialist contractors joined the operation in “challenging conditions”.

It was carried out in “as dignified a way as possible” and the men’s families were kept updated throughout, it said.

The wreckage of the plane, which  went missing two weeks ago over the English Channel, had been found off Guernsey.

The Piper Malibu N264DB was en route from France to Cardiff, after the 28-year-old Argentine striker made a quick trip back to his former club Nantes two days after his £15m transfer to Cardiff was announced.

Mr Ibbotson, 59, from Crowle, North Lincolnshire, was at the controls when the flight lost contact with air traffic controllers on 21 January.

The body that was recovered from the wreckage was being taken to the Isle of Portland to be passed to the Dorset coroner. No details have been released concerning its identification.

An official search was called off on 24 January after Guernsey’s harbour master said the chances of survival were “extremely remote”.

However, the wreckage was located thanks to a privately-funded operation led by marine scientist and oceanographer David Mearns. He called in the AAIB after using sonar and a submersible device fitted with cameras to confirm it was the plane.

 

Fans place flowers and T-shirts with messages in tribute of Emiliano Sala before Cardiff's Premier League match against Bournemouth at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday
Image caption Cardiff fans left a sea of flowers outside the Cardiff City Stadium in tribute to Emiliano Sala

 

The AAIB used a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) to help in the search, and was able to recover the single body previously seen in the wreckage.

Efforts to recover the crashed plane as a whole proved unsuccessful, before they were eventually abandoned due to bad weather.

“The weather forecast is poor for the foreseeable future and so the difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close,” it said in a statement,

However, the AAIB said video footage captured by the ROV would provide “valuable evidence” for its safety investigation.

On the other hand, Sala’s former club, French Ligue 1 side Nantes, has demanded Cardiff City pay his £15m transfer fee. Sala, 28, was Cardiff’s record signing but never played for the club.

The fee was meant to be paid over three years but Cardiff have withheld the first scheduled payment until they are satisfied with the documentation.

 

A supporter stands in front of flowers placed in front of a giant portrait of Emilianio Sala outside La Beaujoire stadium before Tuesday's French Cup match between FC Nantes and Toulouse FCImage caption Supporters in Nantes have also been paying tribute to Sala

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