A body retrieved from the wreckage of a crashed plane in the English Channel has been formally identified as Cardiff City’s Argentina-born football player Emiliano Sala, British police said on Thursday.
Sala, 28, had been flying from his previous club Nantes in western France to Wales on Jan. 21. He was going to make his debut for the English Premier League club when the single-engine Piper Malibu aircraft disappeared over the sea.
Cardiff City beam searchlight on Efe Ambrose Wreckage was found on Sunday following a privately-funded underwater search and a body recovered on Wednesday and taken to southern England.
“The body brought to Portland Port today (Thursday)… has been formally identified by HM Coroner for Dorset as that of professional footballer Emiliano Sala,” the police statement said.
“The families of Mr Sala and the pilot David Ibbotson have been updated with this news and will continue to be supported by specially-trained family liaison officers. Our thoughts remain with them at this difficult time.”
Cardiff posted the statement on their website under a picture of the player.
“We offer our most heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family of Emiliano. He and David will forever remain in our thoughts,” the Welsh club said.
Sala had agreed to join relegation-threatened Cardiff for a club record fee of 15 million pounds ($19.43 million) from French Ligue 1 club Nantes. He had played in France since 2012 and scored 12 goals for Nantes this season. Police said an investigation into the circumstances of the death was continuing.
Efforts to recover the aircraft wreckage have so far been unsuccessful due to poor weather conditions. The plane had been cruising at 5,000 feet (1,525 m) when the pilot requested to descend to a lower altitude on passing Guernsey.
It then lost radar contact at 2,300 feet. Argentine newspaper Clarin last month published a voice message that Sala apparently sent to friends while in the air.
“We’re up in the plane and it seems it’s about to crash,” said the message, which Clarin said was verified by Sala’s father, Horacio Sala.
“If you have not heard anything from me in an hour and a half, I don’t know if they’re going to send someone to find me, because, you know, they’re not going to be able to,” the message said. “Dad. I’m really scared.”
The devastated sister of footballer Emiliano Sala said his ‘soul will shine forever’ after it was confirmed he died in a plane crash in the English Channel.
Following the announcement, Sala’s sister Romina posted a picture of him on Instagram, with the poignant message: ‘Your soul in my soul, it will shine forever, illuminating my existence. I love you, Tito.’
The families of the Argentinean striker and pilot David Ibbotson have been nervously awaiting news over whose body was pulled from the crashed Piper Malibu on Wednesday, after the aircraft went missing on January 21.
Mr Ibbotson’s wife Nora has been desperately waiting for news at her home in Crowle, near Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire.
A local businesswoman in the tiny close knit village – where a makeshift shrine to the missing part time pilot, gas fitter and father-of-three – has been set up in his memory at the market square – said tonight: ‘We’ve heard that Nora hasn’t yet been told which body had been found. She is distraught with grief not knowing, the waiting is agony for her and her family and our hearts go out to them.’
A relative of the heartbroken family said: ‘What’s happened is awful and all we want is for David’s body to be found so we can lay him to rest properly, as he deserves, and pay our respects. Not knowing where he is and if his body has been found or maybe never will be is the worst thing ever.’
Sala’s girlfriend Berenice Schkair yesterday posted a picture on Instagram of a rose stuck into the sand next to the sea.
Mr Ibbotson’s daughter, sister and nephew were among loved ones paying respects to the 60-year-old gas engineer, part time pilot and devoted family man, earlier this week.
The official search was called off after four days after the coastguard deemed survival not likely.
Marine scientist Mr Mearns volunteered to help the Sala family for free after initial search and rescue efforts by a number of agencies failed.
Him and his team, working in conjunction with the AAIB, found the remains of the plane within two hours of starting their search.
The families of both men remain intent on getting answers.
It is not yet known why the plane came down.
An experienced pilot chartered by football agent Willie McKay to fly Emiliano Sala drafted in a ‘rusty’ part-time replacement and covered the costs on his credit card causing confusion when the plane vanished, it was revealed.
Mr McKay wanted his usual pilot David Henderson, 60, to carry the Argentinian striker to Britain but he drafted in David Ibbotson, 59, after asking him: ‘Do you want to spend a weekend in Nantes?’
Mr Ibbotson, a boiler engineer and part-time pilot, told a friend he was ‘a bit rusty’ with the instruments of the 35-year-old aircraft and it did not have the licence to carry paying passengers.
Describing the time period since, Mr McKay, a mega-agent renowned for his contacts in France, told l’Equipe sports newspaper that it has ‘been an absolute nightmare for us.’
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