Emiliano Sala: Brit pilot of missing plane named as authorities delay decision on search

Yahoo Sport UK

The search for the missing aircraft carrying Premier League striker Emiliano Sala has been suspended once again after the name of the pilot was revealed.

The search and rescue operation – which included multiple air and sea assets from the Channel Islands, UK and France – was suspended for the day at 1700 on Tuesday night, with the intention to resume at sunrise.

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A search for a life raft was prioritised before Channel Islands Air Search confirmed on Wednesday afternoon it had become a recovery operation. Guernsey Police said they are yet to find any objects attributed to the flight.

And it was revealed the flight’s pilot was 60-year-old Brit Dave Ibbotson, a father of three from North Lincolnshire, as authorities ponder whether to recommence the operation tomorrow.

IN PICTURES: Tributes to missing Cardiff striker Emiliano Sala in Wales and France

READ MORE: ‘Floating objects’ found as search for Sala to resume in morning

READ MORE: Lineker slates Cristiano Ronaldo after poorly-timed tweet on day Sala is missing

Emiliano Sala: Police are considering possibility Cardiff player made it from missing plane to life raft
Emiliano Sala: Police are considering possibility Cardiff player made it from missing plane to life raft
The pilot of the flight was Dave Ibbotson, a father of three from North Lincolnshire (Facebook)
The pilot of the flight was Dave Ibbotson, a father of three from North Lincolnshire (Facebook)
The pilot of the flight was Dave Ibbotson, a father of three from North Lincolnshire (Facebook)
The pilot of the flight was Dave Ibbotson, a father of three from North Lincolnshire (Facebook)



Reports also revealed a WhatsApp voice message sent from the footballer before the plane disappeared.

In the recording, the footballer says he is ‘getting scared’ and ‘aboard a plane that seems like it is falling to pieces’ as reported on Ole.com.ar.

‘It seems like it is falling to pieces’

“I’m up here in a plane that looks like it’s falling apart. And I’m heading to Cardiff because tomorrow we are starting. In the afternoon we start training with my new team, let’s see what happens,” the message says.

“If you don’t hear from me in an hour and a half, I don’t know if they are sending someone to get me because they’re not going to be able to find me, you know.

“I’m really scared.”

‘Four possibilities’

The morning update had read: “We are searching based on four possibilities:

“1. They have landed elsewhere but not made contact.

“2. They landed on water, have been picked up by a passing ship but not made contact.

“3. They landed on water and made it into the life raft we know was on board.

“4. The aircraft broke up on contact with the water, leaving them in the sea.

“Our search area is prioritised on the life raft option. More updates as information becomes available.”


Details of the search efforts so far (Press Association)
Details of the search efforts so far (Press Association)

“Coastal areas around Alderney and off-lying rocks and islands will also be searched from the air. Updates will be provided once information is available.”

The chances of finding Sala alive are ‘slim’ if the plane landed on water, Guernsey Police had said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.

The French Civil Aviation Authority said Sala was aboard a light aircraft which disappeared from radar en route from Nantes to Cardiff on Monday evening.

‘No stone unturned’

Cardiff chairman Mehmet Dalman, who is in France, told BBC Radio Wales: “We will not leave a single stone unturned until we have all the facts.”

Dalman also confirmed that the club had not booked the plane for the trip, adding that Sala had “made his own arrangements”.

Cardiff’s rivals Swansea tweeted: “All our thoughts are with the families and friends of Emiliano Sala, the pilot, @CardiffCityFC and @FCNantes at this difficult time.”

According to Guernsey Police, the Piper PA-46 Malibu, a single turbine engine aircraft carrying two people, departed Nantes at 7.15pm for the Welsh capital and was flying at an altitude of 5,000ft.

On passing Guernsey it ‘requested descent’, but Jersey air traffic control (ATC) lost contact with the plane while it was flying at 2,300ft.

After a 15-hour search from rescue teams, which covered an area totalling 1,155 square miles, Guernsey Police revealed that ‘a number of floating objects’ were seen in the water, but they were ‘unable to confirm whether any of these are from the missing aircraft’.

A statement posted on the official Twitter account of Guernsey Police said: “We have found no signs of those on board. If they did land on the water, the chances of survival are at this stage, unfortunately, slim.”

The search resumed on Wednesday morning in coastal areas around Alderney and off-lying rocks and islands.
The search resumed on Wednesday morning in coastal areas around Alderney and off-lying rocks and islands.

‘We met such a great person’

Earlier on Tuesday, Cardiff’s executive director Ken Choo expressed his shock and distress at the news.

Sala, 28, was on his way back to Wales after saying goodbye to his Nantes team-mates on Monday night.

Choo described Sala as a ‘great person’ and revealed he had been ‘so happy’ to sign for Cardiff.

“You could see from his face he is so, so happy to be here and ready to start,” Choo said in an in-house TV interview.

“Words cannot describe the look on his face when he met us, we walked him around the ground, he was absolutely ready to give it a go.

“We really feel sad to hear of this news because we met such a great person.”

Sala’s former club Nantes tweeted: “Ou que tu sois, on pense a toi”, which translates into English as: “Wherever you are, we think of you”.

The Argentine had signed a three-and-a-half year deal with the Welsh club after scoring 12 Ligue 1 goals in 19 appearances this season.

Choo revealed Sala had described joining the Bluebirds as ‘one of the best days of his life’.

Cardiff have been in contact with Sala’s family as they wait for news.

Nantes president Waldemar Kita added on the French club’s website: “I’ll always have hope, he’s a fighter. It’s not over, maybe he’s somewhere.”


Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri, who coached Sala at Nantes, added in a statement on Twitter: “I was devastated to hear the news. Emiliano is a wonderful character.

“He’s a fighter. The world of football will be united in wishing for some positive news. I pray for Emiliano and his family.”

‘Disappearance of a warrior’

French sports newspaper L’Equipe carried the search for Sala on its front page on Wednesday with the headline: “The disappearance of a warrior”.

Nantes’ Coupe de France clash with third-tier Entente Sannois, scheduled for Wednesday evening, has been postponed until Sunday while their Ligue 1 fixture against St Etienne – originally due to take place on Saturday – has been moved to Wednesday, January 30.

Sala, a native of Santa Fe in Argentina, played at youth level for Club Proyecto Crecer in his home country before being snapped up by French club Bordeaux in 2010.

He was then sent out on a series of loans to Orleans, Niort and Caen and, after failing to make more than a handful of appearances for Bordeaux, joined Nantes in 2015.

It was in Brittany where his career began to flourish.

Sala’s hat-trick against Toulouse in October 2018 was the first by any Nantes player in Ligue 1 since 2006.

Cardiff signed the forward in a deal reportedly worth in the region of £15million, breaking the previous record of £11million paid for Gary Medel in 2013.

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