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Missing pilot search believed to be starting today

Missing pilot search believed to be starting today

Wednesday 27 February 2019

Missing pilot search believed to be starting today


Divers believed to be involved in the search for missing pilot David Ibbotson are going down in the area his plane lost contact with Air Traffic Control off the coast of Guernsey today.

The Piper Malibu aircraft in which he was flying footballer Emiliano Sala from Nantes to Cardiff went down in the Channel, north west of Alderney, on 21 January.

Mr Ibbotson is still missing, presumed dead, as he has not been seen since his plane left France that night and crashed into the sea.

The striker was found fatally injured within the battered plane, which was torn into three parts held together by electrical cables, and his body was retrieved before being returned to his family in Argentina where he was buried following a vigil at his teenage football club earlier this month.

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Pictured: Emiliano Sala's body was found after the fatal accident, allowing his family and friends the opportunity to hold a memorial ceremony at his boyhood football club in Argentina.

The official search by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) was called off after Mr Sala's body was found as there was no sign of anyone else in the plane wreckage. With the weather conditions worsening, the decision was also made to leave the plane at the bottom of the English Channel.

Since then, the AAIB has released its interim report into the accident, which appears to raise many more questions than it answers. 

Ahead of its publication, there had been speculation over everything ranging from pilot Mr Ibbotson's credentials to the plane's condition and whether ice on the plane's wings may have been a problem.

While the AAIB has said it won't be launching another search to try and recover the plane or to find Mr Ibbotson, a campaign launched by his daughter, Danielle, won the support of the public and sporting world, raising more than a quarter of a million pounds to fund a private search to find Mr Ibbotson.

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Pictured: The interim AAIB report into the accident was released this week. 

Last week, it was confirmed that enough money had been generated for a deep dive search and further air searches.

In an update to those who donated to the campaign, Miss Ibbotson commented: “Thank you again each and everyone for all your support. We are now able to ensure our searches take place… We are all hoping that the outcome is we find my Dad and are able as a family to lay him to rest near to his family.”

'Shipwreck hunter' David Mearns, who helped find the plane, which was 68metres underwater a distance of 30metres from where the plane's final radar signal was registered, said that the dive would include a return to the wreckage to make sure Mr Ibbotson's body is not there.

Guernsey Harbours has now asked local mariners to avoid a boat called Skin Deep which will be around Les Casquets lighthouse between 06:00 and 12:00 today, alongside local vessel the Access Challenger. 

The diving area will be within a radius of three miles around the lighthouse, which is near where the Piper Malibu Mr Ibbotson was flying lost contact with Air Traffic Control.

Neither the vessels nor Guernsey Harbours could confirm to Express what the divers will be doing in the area. 

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Pictured: The notice issued by Guernsey Harbours.

Meanwhile, Cardiff FC - the Premier League football team Sala was due to be joining - are still withholding payment of his record £15million transfer fee from his former team, Nantes.

They said the AAIB's report left them with "grave concerns" over whether Mr Ibbotson should have made the flight, after it revealed that he did not have a commercial flying licence.

The AAIB's investigations are continuing, with a full report expected to take up to as much as a year until it is ready for publication.

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