A body seen in the wreckage of the plane carrying Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson has been recovered, investigators said. Remotely operated Vehicles (ROVs) were used in ‘challenging conditions’ to pull the body out of the water ‘in as dignified a way as possible’ the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said on Wednesday night. The body is being taken to Portland to be passed over to the Dorset coroner for examination, the AAIB added.
Body pulled from wreckage of footballer Emiliano Sala’s plane
The aircraft remains 67 metres underwater 21 miles off the coast of Guernsey in the English Channel as poor weather conditions stopped efforts to recover it. An AAIB spokesman said: ‘Unfortunately, attempts to recover the aircraft wreckage were unsuccessful before poor weather conditions forced us to return the ROV to the ship.
‘The weather forecast is poor for the foreseeable future and so the difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close. ‘In challenging conditions, the AAIB and its specialist contractors successfully recovered the body previously seen amidst the wreckage. ‘The operation was carried out in as dignified a way as possible and the families were kept informed of progress.’
The remains of the plane were discovered on Sunday evening. It had disappeared on January 21 as it travelled from Nantes in France to Cardiff. The AAIB said previously that the work of the ROVs has been hampered by the difficult tidal conditions around the Channel Islands.
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 David Barker said the chances of survival following such a long period were ‘extremely remote’. The remains of the aircraft were tracked down by a team co-ordinated by ocean scientist David Mearns, who has located some of the most elusive wrecks in the world. Mr Mearns – known as the ‘Shipwreck Hunter’ – and his team located the aircraft within two hours of commencing their search.
He told the Press Association the discovery had been so quick because the team had been looking for a static object rather than in a dynamic environment searching for survivors. ‘No-one should walk away with the impression that the Coastguard and also the Channel Islands air search did anything other than a professional job,’ he said.
The AAIB said it expected to publish an interim report within the month. Cardiff had signed Sala for a club record £15 million and he was due to start training last month. It has emerged that Nantes has demanded payment from Cardiff for the player’s transfer. It is understood Cardiff received a letter from Nantes on Tuesday, in which the French Ligue 1 club threatened to take legal action if the first scheduled payment of the fee is not made within 10 days. It is believed Cardiff have been left surprised by the demand, considering the circumstances and the timing, and would rather the investigation into the tragedy is completed first.