Emiliano Sala Search Called Off As Police Confirm He’s Missing Presumed Dead
Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala has been confirmed missing, presumed dead aged 28, after the plane he was travelling in went missing off Alderney in the Channel Islands.
The 28-year-old Argentine striker was on board the aircraft – the Piper Malibu – which disappeared near the Casquets lighthouse on Monday night (January 21).
The plane was making its way from Nantes, western France, to Cardiff, Wales. Search and rescue efforts were made to find the passengers, but proved unsuccessful.
This afternoon (January 24), police confirmed the search had been called off, with Harbour Master David Barker stating ‘the chances of survival are extremely remote’ and the next of kin of those involved have been informed.
Guernsey Police’s tweet said, ‘Unless there is a significant development, there will be no further updates’.
A coastguard rescue helicopter, along with crews from Alderney and Guernsey RNLI, joined in with the search on Monday, and resumed again the following morning at 8am.
HM Coastguard revealed they’d sent two helicopters to assist with the search, despite the fact the disappearance didn’t take place in their covered area.
A spokeswoman stated they were assisting Guernsey Coastguard with a search for a light aircraft off Alderney but revealed there was ‘nothing found’.
Guernsey Police said the light aircraft left Nantes at 19:15 and had been flying at 5,000ft when it contacted Jersey air traffic control requesting descent. The plane lost contact while at 2,300ft.
On Wednesday (January 23), it was revealed there were four options which the search was being based on, including the idea they’d landed and not made contact, as well as the opinion they may have landed on water and made it into the life raft which was on board.
The fourth option, tweeted by Guernsey Police, stated: ‘The aircraft broke up on contact with the water, leaving them in the sea’, before revealing their search area was ‘prioritised on the life raft option’.
Guernsey harbour master Captain David Barker said no distress call had been received, and at the time the aircraft went missing, the Met Office stated ‘there were some showers around, but nothing too intense, wind speeds were not too bad – average speeds were around 15 to 20mph’.
However, as the initial search continued into the evening, conditions worsened, becoming wetter and windier. The conditions led to the search being suspended for the night.
Guernsey Police confirmed the identity of the Piper Malibu’s pilot as David Ibbotson.
John Fitzgerald, chief operating officer of Channel Airline Airsearch, one of the on-site units with two helicopters assisting with the search, revealed on Tuesday he was pessimistic about finding Sala and the pilot.
Speaking to French publication SO FOOT, he said [translated]:
I really do not understand how an airplane could have disappeared from radar. There must have been a technical or mechanical problem.
The plane in which they had embarked, a Piper PA-46 Malibu, is a very good plane, but it must have happened something catastrophic, there is no reason for this plane to have encountered a problem.
When asked about possible scenarios for the craft and people on board, Fitzgerald said ‘it is very complicated to answer’ before adding, ‘I do not think there is any chance of them being alive’.
Sala’s father, Horacio, revealed he first heard about the aircraft’s disappearance through a friend, telling local news outlets in his home city of Rosario:
I don’t know anything. I’m in Argentina. I spoke to Emiliano on Sunday.I don’t have any information on the journey, the only thing I know is that it was a small plane.
They are saying that the plane lost control in the channel. I don’t know what could have happened. I am speechless.
Sala had been unveiled as the Bluebirds’ record transfer signing last Saturday (January 19), after a £15 million move from French Ligue 1 side, Nantes.
He’s said to have turned down a late mega-money offer to play in China, before putting pen to paper on a three-and-a-half-year deal at Cardiff, due to his desire to play in the Premier League.
Sala returned to France after completing his move, and was due to report for training in Cardiff on Tuesday (January 22).
In an interview with Cardiff City last Saturday, Sala spoke with fondness about what lay ahead:
I can’t wait to start training, meet my new team-mates and get down to work. For me it feels special [to be the Club’s record signing].
I have come here wanting to work and to help my teammates and the Club. I can’t wait to get to work straight away and do everything I can.
Club CEO and Executive Director, Ken Choo, added:
It’s obviously been a long process to secure the services of Emiliano. I’d like to thank those involved for making the signing happen, especially Tan Sri Vincent and the rest of the transfer committee.
We see Emiliano as a significant acquisition and welcome him wholeheartedly to the capital city of Wales.
I’m sure all Cardiff City fans will join me in that and we can look forward to seeing our record signing in a Bluebirds shirt.
Ahead of his transfer to the Premier League, Sala was the third highest scorer in Ligue 1 this season with 12 goals, behind only Kylian Mbappe and Nicolas Pepe.
In his last social media post on Instagram, Sala uploaded a picture alongside his former teammates, which was simply captioned ‘ciao’.
Sala began his playing career at Argentinian side Club Proyecto Crecer, before moving to France, where he played for a number of clubs, including Girondins Bordeaux.
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Emiliano Sala, as well Mr Ibbotson, at this difficult time.