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British pilot arrested over Sala plane crash death

British pilot arrested over Sala plane crash death

Thursday 20 June 2019

British pilot arrested over Sala plane crash death

Detectives investigating the death of a footballer in a plane crash near Alderney have arrested a man in his 60s - believed to be a British pilot that helped arrange the fatal flight - on suspicion of manslaughter by unlawful act.

In a statement made yesterday evening, Dorset Police confirmed that they had arrested a 64-year-old from North Yorkshire, who was later released while investigations continued.

While they didn't identify the suspect, national media reports have since named him as British pilot David Henderson, who was allegedly involved in arranging the fatal flight from Nantes to Cardiff - the sites of Mr Sala's former and new football grounds - in January.


Pictured: Mr Henderson's LinkedIn profile.

Mr Henderson's LinkedIn profile describes him as an 'Aviation Facilitator' with two decades of "ferry pilot" experience, offering travellers the opportunity to "significantly reduce your time spent travelling for business or leisure, while accessing remote/hard to reach locations" via "a number of highly cost efficient solutions".

The Yorkshireman's name featured on the flight plan, but he did not fly the plane - instead, it was Dave Ibbotson, who admitted in a Facebook post prior to the flight that some of his flying skills were "rusty". His body was never recovered following the tragedy.

Speculation about Mr Henderson being aboard the plane in the wake of the crash led him to post a Facebook status to confirm he was still alive for friends and family. His profile was temporarily deleted, and the post has now been made private.

Detective Inspector Simon Huxter, of Dorset Police’s Major Crime Investigation Team (MCIT), commented last night: “We have carried out a wide-ranging investigation into the circumstances of the death of Mr Sala and continue to work with partner agencies including the Civil Aviation Authority.

“As part of this investigation we have to consider whether there is any evidence of any suspected criminality and as a result of our enquiries we have today, Wednesday 19 June 2019, arrested a 64-year-old man from the North Yorkshire area on suspicion of manslaughter by an unlawful act. He is assisting with our enquiries and has been released from custody under investigation.

“This matter therefore is still subject to a live investigation and I would ask the media and members of the public to refrain from speculation, as this could cause additional distress to the families involved as well as potentially hinder the investigation.

“As is standard practice, we will not be releasing any further information as to the identity of the individual who has been arrested unless that person is charged to appear in court and again would discourage any speculation in relation to this.”


Pictured: Pilot David Ibbotson, whose body was never recovered from the wreckage of the Piper Malibu plane he had been flying.

The Premier League footballer went missing in January as he travelled from his former club Nantes FC to Cardiff, where he had just signed a record deal, but the plane went off-radar over the Channel Islands.

After an extensive search and rescue operation, the wreckage of the Piper Malibu aircraft he had been flying in with pilot Dave Ibbotson was found under the sea, torn into three parts but held together by electrical cables.

Mr Sala's body was recovered from the wreckage and brought to Portland Port in Dorset on 7 February, and detectives from Dorset Police have been carrying out enquiries into the circumstances of the death on behalf of HM Coroner.

Despite a crowdfunded deep dive operation in the area the plane ditched, Mr Ibbotson's body was never found.


Pictured: An image of the wreckage off the coast of Alderney.

Dorset Police said that the families of Mr Sala and Mr Ibbotson have been informed of the latest update in their investigations, adding that they have been supported by Family Liaison Officers throughout their investigations.

The Air Accidents Investigation Bureau (AAIB) are also conducting a probe into what happened on the night of the plane's fatal crash.

In an interim report, they documented how the aircraft twisted and turned before plummeting at a rate of 7,000ft/minute into the sea. It also explained that Mr Ibbotson may not have been equipped with a commercial licence, potentially rendering the flight illegal if conducted in exchange for money above and beyond its operational costs.

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