Over a week since a light aircraft carrying Emiliano Sala disappeared, it is reported parts of the plane have washed up on a beach in France.
The plane went missing last Monday evening near the Channel Islands after departing from the French city of Nantes, due to land in Cardiff.
No trace of the aircraft or those on board was found in official searches which were closed on Thursday.
But a private search began on Saturday, as part of which an underwater scouring of the seabed is scheduled to take place later this week.
In the meantime, it has been announced by the Air Accident Investigation Branch that parts of seat cushions have washed up on a beach near Surtainville on the Cotentin Peninsula, on the northwest coast of France.
This was confirmed by the Bureau d’Enquêtes & d’Analyses (BEA), the French safety investigation authority.
The full statement from the Air Accident Investigation Branch reads:
Since we opened our safety investigation on Tuesday 23 January, we have been gathering evidence such as flight, aircraft and personnel records, and have been analysing radar data and air traffic tapes.
We have been working closely with other international authorities and have kept the families of those involved updated on our progress.
On the morning of Monday 28 January, we were advised by the Bureau d’Enquêtes & d’Analyses (BEA), the French safety investigation authority, that part of a seat cushion had been found on a beach near Surainville on the Cotentin Peninsula.
A second cushion was found in the same area later that day. From a preliminary examination we have concluded that it is likely that the cushions are from the missing aircraft.
— AAIB (@aaibgovuk) January 23, 2019
The statement continued:
From the moment we were notified of the missing aircraft, we have been looking at the feasibility of conducting an underwater seabed search for aircraft wreckage. Based on a detailed assessment of the flight path and last known radar position, we have now identified a priority search area of approximately four square nautical miles.
Through the Ministry of Defence’s Salvage and Marine Operations (SALMO) Project Team, we have commissioned a specialist survey vessel to carry out an underwater survey of the seabed to try to locate and identify possible aircraft wreckage.
Due to the weather and sea conditions, we currently expect our underwater seabed search to start at the end of this weekend and to take up to three days. Side-scan sonar equipment will be used to try to locate the wreckage on the seabed. If the wreckage is found, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) will be used to visually examine the wreckage.
— Cardiff City FC (@CardiffCityFC) January 19, 2019
The statement confirmed:
We are aware that a privately operated search is also being conducted in the area, and we are liaising closely with those involved to maximise the chance of locating any wreckage and ensure a safe search operation.
In conclusion, the Air Accident Investigation Branch explained the organisation’s remit is to ‘undertake safety investigations to establish the cause of accidents’, and the noted no part of their job is to ‘apportion blame or liability’.
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