A Cardiff Premier League football star was on board a plane that went missing off the coast of Alderney, it has been confirmed.
The Piper Malibu, a light aircraft, was believed to have been flying from France to the UK when contact was lost near Les Casquets, shortly before 21:00 on Monday 21 January.
Two people were believed to have been on board, which French Police and Nantes FC have now confirmed was Emiliano Sala.
The Argentinian striker, who had scored 12 league goals in 19 appearances for former team Nantes, had just signed a £15m contract with Cardiff on 19 January. Sala said he was "happy" with the signing, which was a record for the Welsh club, adding: "I can't wait to start training, meet my new teammates and get down to work." Shortly after the signing, he jokingly tweeted "There is a new Sala in town" - a reference to his namesake and fellow Premier League goalscorer, Liverpool FC's Mohammed Salah.
Last night, Nantes FC posted a touching video tribute entitled 'Merci Emi' as he left the club for the final time.
Sala had apparently made his way back to France to collect some belongings before returning to Cardiff on a private plane, which had been due to arrive at 21:00.
Before leaving France to join the UK team - known as the Bluebirds - Sala posted a photo alongside his former squad yesterday afternoon captioned "La ultima ciao" ("The final goodbye").
View this post on Instagram
Lifeboat crews from Alderney and Guernsey were dispatched at 20:50 and 21:00 respectively last night after radar contact with the light aircraft was lost.
The Channel Islands Air Search team and a French coastguard helicopter were also sent to the search zone with other resources being flown in to help.
Launched from Alderney, Alderney about half an hour ago - https://t.co/nDV1VAQkLd— RNLI: Out On A Shout (@outonashout) January 21, 2019
Local observers reported those additional resources included a coastguard helicopter from the UK.
As the search continued into a third hour the search and rescue craft were using Guernsey Airport to refuel with further emergency service staff and volunteers being called in as extra resources were called in to help as the search went on.
Launched from St Peter Port, Guernsey about half an hour ago - https://t.co/fpPQROgHCm— RNLI: Out On A Shout (@outonashout) January 21, 2019
Guernsey Police confirmed the search and rescue operation was underway off the north of Alderney.
The force said the emergency services were scrambled after "a light aircraft disappeared from radar several hours ago. Two helicopters alongside the Guernsey and Alderney lifeboats are searching We will provide more information as it becomes available."
A search and rescue operation is currently underway off the north of Alderney after a light aircraft disappeared from radar several hours ago.— Guernsey Police (@GuernseyPolice) January 21, 2019
2 helicopters alongside the Guernsey and Alderney lifeboats are searching
We will provide more information as it becomes available
Chairman of Cardiff City, Sala's new club, Mehmet Dalman released a statement this morning confirming the team's fears for the player.
“We are very concerned by the latest news that a light aircraft lost contact over the Channel last night," he said. "We are awaiting confirmation before we can say anything further. We are very concerned for the safety of Emiliano Sala.”
As concern grows, Sala's former club Nantes FC have said that they will be postponing a match with ESG (Entente Sannois Saint-Gratien) on the recommendation of the French Football Federation.
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Lead photo: Emiliano Sala, whose plane went missing off the coast of Alderney. (Twitter/@EmilianoSala1/Cardiff FC)
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