Sport Soccer

Saturday 23 February 2019

Body visible in seabed footage of wreckage of Emiliano Sala’s plane

No decision yet on whether to raise the fuselage to the surface.

Handout still from footage captured by a remotely-operated vehicle, showing the wreckage of the aircraft carrying Emiliano Sala (AAIB)
Handout still from footage captured by a remotely-operated vehicle, showing the wreckage of the aircraft carrying Emiliano Sala (AAIB)

By Press Association Reporters

A body is visible in seabed video footage of the wreckage of the plane which crashed in the English Channel with Cardiff footballer Emiliano Sala on board.

The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said the footage was filmed using an underwater remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) which was surveying the area after the plane was located on Sunday.

Analysis of the footage by AAIB investigators confirmed the wreckage was of the missing Piper Malibu aircraft, which disappeared in poor weather near Guernsey on January 21.

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Graphic showing location of aircraft wreckage (PA Graphics)

The AAIB said in a statement: “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 image shows the rear left side of the fuselage, including part of the aircraft registration, N264DB.

A decision has yet to be taken on whether to raise the wreckage to the surface.

The statement added: “The AAIB is now considering the next steps, in consultation with the families of the pilot and passenger, and the police.”

Emiliano Sala’s father has spoken of his anguish and disbelief after the wreckage was discovered.

Speaking at his home in Argentina, Horacio Sala said he was “desperate” after a privately-funded search operation found the aircraft in waters north of Guernsey on Sunday.

“I cannot believe it. This is a dream. A bad dream. I am desperate,” Mr Sala told local broadcaster Cronica TV.

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Tributes have been left for Sala at the Cardiff City Stadium (Mark Kerton/PA)

The Piper Malibu carrying 28-year-old Sala and pilot David Ibbotson, 59, disappeared over the English Channel after leaving Nantes in France for Cardiff.

Two vessels, including one commissioned by the AAIB, had been taking part in a fresh search covering an area of around four square nautical miles on Sunday when the wreckage was located.

Marine scientist David Mearns, the director of Blue Water Recoveries, led a team on the search vessel FPV Morven while the AAIB also sent a team aboard the Geo Ocean III, a specialist vessel commissioned for the task.

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David Mearns has led the private search for the aircraft (Joe Giddens/PA)

The privately-funded operation on behalf of the Sala family was made possible after a campaign raised more than £260,000 to pay for it.

The plane had requested to descend before it lost contact with Jersey air traffic control.

An official search operation was called off on January 24 after Guernsey’s harbour master Captain David Barker said the chances of survival following such a long period were “extremely remote”.

Two seat cushions, which are likely to have come from the plane, were found last week on the French coast.

Cardiff had signed the footballer for a club record £15million and he was due to start training last month.

Ross Taylor of A-to-Sea Solutions – the survey ship used to locate the wreck – said the crew found the missing plane on its third “line” of the search area.

He told the Press Association: “In terms of the search you have set lines of the seabed and they are set up at a distance depending on the resolution you want to achieve.”

He compared the search process to mowing a lawn, and said the wreck was found using a combination of sonar equipment, including one device towed about five metres from the seabed.

He said the body was discovered using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) belonging to the AAIB vessel Geo Ocean III.

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Cardiff paid tribute to Sala during their Premier League game against Bournemouth (Mark Kerton/PA)

The body was spotted on the vehicle’s underwater cameras.

Mr Taylor was unable to comment on where in the plane the body was located.

When asked if it was possible to recover the body without raising the wreck, Mr Taylor said: “ROVs are sometimes able to grab on to items, but whether that would happen I don’t know.

“Divers can also get down to that depth but it’s a much bigger operation.

“In 25m to 30m of water it would be a lot easier but in 70m it would be a much bigger operation.”

A spokesman for the island of Guernsey said that Mr Sala’s family are not currently on the island.

Press Association

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