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Missing plane: experts find body in wreckage

Missing plane: experts find body in wreckage

Monday 04 February 2019

Missing plane: experts find body in wreckage

Monday 04 February 2019


A body has been found in the wreckage of the missing plane carrying Premier League footballer Emiliano Sala and his pilot Dave Ibbotson, it has been confirmed.

The light aircraft disappeared while flying from Nantes to Cardiff almost two weeks ago, when it went off-radar at 20:30 on Monday 21 January. Yesterday, its wreckage was found on the seabed northwest of Alderney.

On Sunday night, 'shipwreck hunter' David Mearns, who had been recruited to lead a privately funded search to find the Piper Malibu aircraft, said that they had found it around 09:00 using sonar equipment.

Mr Mearns confirmed on Saturday that the search zone had been narrowed down to a 2 square nautical mile area, which is where his vessel, and one brought to the area by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB), had focused their efforts.

The two families of the men who were on board the aircraft have been informed.

Sala Search Boat

Pictured: Mr Mearns' team arrived in the search area at first light, and found the wreckage around 09:00.

On Sunday evening, the boat commissioned by Mr Mearns was seen to return to St Peter Port Harbour, while the AAIB vessel, the Geo Ocean III, has remained at sea.

The initial search for the plane and the two men, coordinated by Guernsey Coastguard, had been called off after three days as hopes of finding Mr Sala and Mr Ibbotson alive faded. 

Mr Sala's sister called for the search to continue, and a GoFundMe crowdfunding page set up to pay for a private search received more than £300,000 within days.

That money was used to hire Mr Mearns, who also confirmed yesterday that any money left over will go into a foundation to benefit Mr Sala and Mr Ibbotson's families.

sala1.png

Pictured: A marine traffic tracker shows how the Geo Ocean III retraced the area many times.

Mr Sala's father, Horacio, who remained in Argentina while his family travelled to Guernsey for the search, said he learned of the wreckage discovery through TV reports.

In an emotional phonecall with Cronica TV, he shared his heartbreak over the news. "I cannot believe it... This is a dream, a bad dream." 

Video: Horacio Sala, the footballer's father, was shaken by the news.

With the plane now discovered, the private search is set to come to a close, with recovery efforts being led by the AAIB.

This morning, they issued the following statement, which confirmed a body had been found.

sala2.jpg

Pictured: Footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot Dave Ibbotson, and one of the cushions that washed up from their plane in France.

It is not yet known whether this is Mr Sala or Mr Ibbotson.

READ: The statement in full...

Having identified a priority search area last week, the AAIB agreed a search strategy with Blue Water Recoveries Ltd to maximise the chance of locating the aircraft wreckage.

The AAIB commissioned specialist vessel Geo Ocean III and Blue Water Recoveries Ltd commissioned FPV Morven and the search area was divided between the vessels. Both vessels began their search on the morning of Sunday 3 February.  

Early in the search, the Morven identified an object of interest on the seabed using its side-scan sonar equipment. It cleared the immediate area for the Geo Ocean III to use its underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to survey the area of the seabed in which the object was located.  Based on analysis of ROV video footage, the AAIB investigators on board the vessel concluded that the object is wreckage from the missing Piper Malibu aircraft, registration N264DB.

The ROV carried out a further search of the area overnight, but did not identify any additional pieces of wreckage.

Tragically, in video footage from the ROV, one occupant is visible amidst the wreckage. The AAIB is now considering the next steps, in consultation with the families of the pilot and passenger, and the police.

The image shows the rear left side of the fuselage including part of the aircraft registration.

We intend to publish an interim report within one month of the accident occurring.

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