Wednesday 26 June 2019

'No timeframe' for lifting wreck of Emiliano Sala plane

Emiliano Sala had been en route to new club Cardiff City. Photo: Thibalt Camus
Emiliano Sala had been en route to new club Cardiff City. Photo: Thibalt Camus
Wreckage: Footage shows the rear left side of the fuselage of the Piper Malibu aircraft. Photo: AFP Photo/AAIB/Getty Images
Cardiff paid tribute to Sala during their Premier League game against Bournemouth (Mark Kerton/PA)

Tess de la Mare

A timeframe has yet to be set to lift the wreck of the plane carrying Cardiff City player Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson, investigators have said.

The Piper Malibu N264DB carrying Sala (28) and Ibbotson (59) was discovered off the coast of Alderney in the English Channel on Sunday evening - almost two weeks after it disappeared.

The UK's Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) confirmed on Monday that a body is visible in the wreck, which is about 67m deep.

James Hotson, a spokesman for the AAIB, said on Tuesday that analysis of the plane in situ is still ongoing.

He told the Press Association: "We are currently working underwater when conditions allow the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to go down."

The movements of tides and currents sometimes interrupted the work of the ROV, he said.

He added: "We can't give an indication at the moment of when [the plane] will be raised and we haven't given an indication at the moment that we are going to raise it."

Mr Hotson said there was always a possibility that the wreck would not be raised and that a decision would be made on the advice of salvage experts.

Handout photo issued by Jon Le Ray of the Geo Ocean III specialist search vessel off the coast of Alderney in the English Channel, near the site where the wreckage of the plane which crashed with Cardiff footballer Emiliano Sala on board was found. Photo: Jon Le Ray/@jonnersleray /PA Wire
Handout photo issued by Jon Le Ray of the Geo Ocean III specialist search vessel off the coast of Alderney in the English Channel, near the site where the wreckage of the plane which crashed with Cardiff footballer Emiliano Sala on board was found. Photo: Jon Le Ray/@jonnersleray /PA Wire

"At the moment we are still conducting research - all I can say is that an announcement will be made when we are able to," he said.

Mr Hotson said that, if lifted, the wreckage would most likely be taken to an English port before being transferred to the AAIB's laboratory in Farnborough, east Hampshire.

Imperative

On Monday, marine scientist David Mearns, who co-ordinated the discovery of the plane, said it was "imperative" the aircraft was lifted to provide answers to the victims' families.

He added: "The AAIB should be able to rule things out or rule things in, that's the normal investigative process for any crash, so I think it's imperative that the plane is recovered, and now even more so now we know someone is down there."

Mr Mearns, who has spearheaded around 20 historic wreck discoveries including one of Britain's most famous battleships the HMS Hood, offered his services to the Sala family for free and has been in constant contact with them.

A crowdfunding campaign raised the funds needed for a boat equipped with the necessary sonar technology.

On Tuesday, Mr Mearns thanked the crew for their efforts in locating the plane.

A view of the FPV Morven survey vessel moored in Guernsey Harbour which was used to discover the wreckage of the plane that was carrying footballer Emiliano Sala. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
A view of the FPV Morven survey vessel moored in Guernsey Harbour which was used to discover the wreckage of the plane that was carrying footballer Emiliano Sala. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

He tweeted: "I would like to acknowledge the team from A-2-Sea Solutions Ltd of Southampton who pulled out all the stops to get the FPV MORVEN rapidly mobilised and repositioned to Guernsey.

"The team performed very well and the Sala family are very thankful for their efforts. #EmilianoSala."

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