The missing aircraft boarded by Argentinian footballer Emiliano Sala and his pilot has been found, investigators revealed on Sunday.
The 28-year-old was travelling from France to join up with his new club, Premier League side Cardiff City, in a light aircraft manned by David Ibbotson on January 21 when it disappeared close to the Channel Islands.
Tributes were paid to the striker on both sides of the Channel over the weekend as hopes faded he would be found alive, and Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) on Sunday told AFP the plane’s wreckage had been discovered. “I can confirm it has been found,” a spokesperson said, adding a statement would be issued on Monday.
Sala’s father Horacio spoke of his shock from his home in Progresso, Argentina, telling Cronica TV: “I can’t believe it. It’s a bad dream.” Horacio was the only member of the Sala family to stay behind in Argentina as the others rushed to France to try to help with the search. “I talk to them every day. But since I don’t have WhatsApp it’s expensive to call them or for them to call me. But anyway, they kept saying days were going by, and that there had been zero word on Emiliano, or on the plane,” he said.
Suspected debris from the plane washed up on the Normandy coastline in France last Wednesday.
Sala was travelling in the Piper PA-46 Malibu plane after transferring from French team Nantes in a 17 million euro ($19.3 million) move — a record deal for the Welsh team.
It vanished from radar around 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Guernsey, with pilot Ibbotson the only other person aboard.
David Mearns, whose private company, Blue Water Recoveries, was hired by Sala’s family to search for the plane, said on Twitter that the wreckage was spotted early Sunday. “There’s a substantial amount of wreckage on the seabed,” he wrote, adding: “This is about the best result we could have hoped for the families.” Top footballers were among more than 4,500 contributors to a crowdfunding page that raised over 300,000 euros ($343,000) to look for the wreckage.