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Date set for final report on fatal plane crash

Date set for final report on fatal plane crash

Tuesday 21 January 2020

Date set for final report on fatal plane crash

The circumstances surrounding a fatal plane crash near Alderney that claimed the lives of a Premier League footballer and a pilot will finally be revealed in a report in March, investigators have confirmed.

The Piper Malibu aircraft carrying Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson crashed into the English Channel late on the evening of Monday 21 January 2019.

Radar contact was lost with the private plane as it passed near Les Casquets lighthouse, off Alderney, with Mr Ibbotson flying Mr Sala from Nantes in France to Cardiff.


Pictured: Emiliano Sala had signed for Cardiff City, which led to him taking the fatal private flight between Nantes in France and the Welsh city, piloted by David Ibbotson. 

Mr Sala had been subject to a £15million transfer, which was to see him play for the English Premier League 'Bluebirds', although he never even made his first training session after tragedy struck.

In the weeks after the plane crash, a privately funded search found the plane fuselage lying on the sea bed and Mr Sala's body was inside. So far, there has been no trace of Mr Ibbotson, despite a separate privately funded search to try and trace and recover his body.

The Air Accident Investigation Branch continues to review the evidence gathered so far to try and explain exactly what happened, to cause the disappearance of the pilot and death of his passenger.

An initial report, issued in February last year can be read HEREIt offered only factual information relating to the aircraft itself, the weather conditions, and the planned route of travel. 

aaib sala report ibbotson

Pictured: The fuselage of the plane was lying on the sea bed, between Guernsey and Alderney but it has since washed away. 

An interim report, issued in August 2019, and found HERE offered more detail, and suggested carbon monoxide poisoning may have been to blame for the fatal accident.

A post-mortem examination on Mr Sala's body found evidence in his blood of a carboxyhaemoglobin (COHb) saturation level of 58%. COHb is the combination product of carbon monoxide (CO) with haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein molecule contained in red blood cells. Combined, the two can reduce the levels of oxygen in the body.

The AAIB report stated that Mr Ibbotson was likely to have suffered the same condition.

"In this type of aircraft, the cockpit is not separated from the cabin and it is considered likely that the pilot would also have been affected to some extent by exposure to CO," the report said. 


Pictured: Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson. 

Now, the AAIB has said its final report on the Piper Malibu tragedy should be out in March, just over a year after the aircraft ditched into the Channel.

Crispin Orr, Chief Inspector of Air Accidents, Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said: “Today marks the anniversary of the accident involving Piper PA-46-310P Malibu, N264DB, near Guernsey, and our thoughts are with the families and friends of Mr Ibbotson and Mr Sala at this time.

“The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has conducted a thorough investigation looking at a number of elements including operational, technical, organisational and human factors that may have caused or contributed to this accident. We have worked closely with many specialist organisations including the aircraft and engine manufacturers and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the USA.

“The AAIB has published two special bulletins about the accident, one which contained preliminary factual information, and the second which contained medical information for the general aviation community about the dangers of exposure to carbon monoxide.

“Our investigation is now at an advanced stage and we intend to publish our final report by the end of March 2020.”

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