Emiliano Sala Plane Wreckage Found in Channel
The Piper Malibu N264DB was lost on 21 January on its way from Nantes, France, to Cardiff, with the Argentine striker and pilot David Ibbotson on board.
Accident investigators are expected to send a submersible to inspect the wreckage later on Monday.
David Mearns, who led a privately-funded search for the aircraft, said it was located off Guernsey on Sunday.
He said: “All I will say, is that there is a substantial amount of wreckage on the seabed.”
Mr Mearns’s private search has now been stood down and the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) is at the site working to recover the plane.
In a series of tweets, marine scientist Mr Mearns said: “The families of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson have been notified by police.”
He added: “Our sole thoughts are with the families and friends of Emiliano and David.”
Wreckage of the plane carrying Emiliano Sala and piloted by David Ibbotson was located early this morning by the FPV MORVEN. As agreed with the AAIB they moved the GEO OCEAN III over the position we provided them to visually identify the plane by ROV. #EmilianoSala
— David Mearns (@davidlmearns) February 3, 2019
Speaking to Argentinian broadcaster Cronica TV, Sala’s father Horacio said: “I cannot believe it. This is a dream. A bad dream. I am desperate.”
Cardiff had signed Sala for a club record of £15m and he was due to start training last month.
The 28-year-old striker and Mr Ibbotson, 59, from Crowle, North Lincolnshire, were travelling from Nantes, where he had previously played, when the flight lost contact with air traffic controllers.
An official search operation was called off on 24 January after Guernsey’s harbour master said the chances of survival were “extremely remote”.
Cushions believed to be from the plane were found on a beach near Surtainville, on France’s Cotentin Peninsula, last week.
There were emotional tributes to the footballer as Cardiff played their first home game since the disappearance earlier on Saturday.
The club’s manager, Neil Warnock, said he felt Sala was “with” his team as they beat Bournemouth 2-0 in the Premier League.
An online appeal had raised £324,000 (371,000 euros) for the private search, which began on Sunday.
Working jointly with the AAIB, Mr Mearns’s ship and another search vessel, the Geo Ocean III, began combing a four square mile area of the channel, 24 nautical miles north of Guernsey.
The AAIB ship has remained at the site where the missing Piper plane was located, to deploy an underwater search vehicle to make a visual confirmation.
A recovery operation will then begin.
Officials at the AAIB said they expected to give an update on the operation on Monday morning.