Wednesday 29 November 2023
Select a region

Missing plane could be found within "days"

Missing plane could be found within

Saturday 02 February 2019

Missing plane could be found within "days"

Saturday 02 February 2019

Search experts believe that a much smaller search site of just 2sq nautical miles means recovering debris from the missing light aircraft carrying Premier League footballer, Emiliano Sala, and his pilot, should happen in the next few days.

'Shipwreck hunter' David Mearns will set out on his privately funded search in the early hours of tomorrow morning working together with the Air Accident Investigation Branch. And he has confirmed that any leftover funds once the search has been completed will be used to set up a foundation to benefit the families of the missing men.

Two search operations will now be covering the suspected site where the Piper Malibu Piper carrying Sala and Dave Ibbotson is thought to have come down, north of Alderney. 

The AAIB are a UK government run body whose mission is to identify the cause of the crash on Monday 21 January. The AAIB announced its intentions to carry out a seabed search earlier this week when two cushions identified as part of the missing plane washed up on a beach in France.

The AAIB will be launching an 80m long vessel - much bigger than the size of Mr Mearns' vessel - but has not confirmed yet exactly when. It also said the specifics of the search area itself are "confidential". 

DP 2 Sala

Pictured: A DP2 ship such as the one which the AAIB will use (source: Wikipedia, credit: Karol Alaszewicz).

Both the AAIB and Mr Mearns will search the 2 sq nautical mile box which was identified using the last known location of the plane from radar records, and is around 24 miles north of Guernsey. Mr Mearns' smaller boat will set off from St Peter Port marina at 03:00 tomorrow morning to be at the target area for daybreak. 

It means there is likely to be residual funds from the search paid for by £300,000 raised through a Go Fund Me campaign. The money, Mr Mearns told Express, will go into a new foundation for the families. 

Mr Mearns said he has retained his "sense of purpose" as he volunteered his time to help the family and feels his search boat may still be the vessel to find the wreckage but that it is "not a race."

"We began with a 25sq mile box now we have a much better chance. The AAIB are using a DP 2 ship (dynamic positioning ship) with much the same search and survey technology as we're going to use, but it will be able to handle the conditions better than we can.

"The confidence level is high, it's a small plane and because parts of it have washed up we know it's badly broken up, we're not looking for an intact plane we're looking at a debris field," he said. 

 Both ships will be using sonar which uses a piloted cable sent down to the sea bed. Mr Mearns described how he would go in a zig-zag like fashion in and around the targeted area. If and when the sonar - which can pick up on objects the size of a car tyre - identifies anything of interest, the remote controlled underwater vessel will be sent down. 

On the AAIB ship representatives from the authorities and police will be on hand to carry out the next stage of the recovery in order to obtain the best information about how the crash occurred. 

"The family are happy that this number of resources is being used now to find the wreckage, we can do it in a co-ordinated way. We're basically equivalent in terms of the equipment on board. We're talking days now," he said. 

Mr Mearns' search was funded by more than £300,000 raised with a Go Fund Me account.

"It's looking like there will be a residue of that fund, a foundation is being set up to administer those funds and 100% of that money will be used to benefit the families, both families," he said. 

Sign up to newsletter



Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.

Once your comment has been submitted, it won’t appear immediately. There is no need to submit it more than once. Comments are published at the discretion of Bailiwick Publishing, and will include your username.

There are no comments for this article.

To place a comment please login

You have landed on the Bailiwick Express website, however it appears you are based in . Would you like to stay on the site, or visit the site?