Emiliano Sala: Search for missing Cardiff footballer and pilot ended

The operation to find footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot Dave Ibbotson has come to an end.

Sala, 28, and Ibbotson, 60, were in the plane which went missing after it ‘requested descent’ just past Guernsey on Monday night.

The search was suspended on Wednesday night due to adverse weather conditions, and on Thursday morning Guernsey Police confirmed the search had begun once again.

But on Thursday afternoon Guernsey Police tweeted that unless there are further developments, the search will be ended.

A statement from Guernsey’s harbour master, Captain David Barker, said ‘all information was reviewed’ including ‘what emergency equipment was on board’.

“The chances of survival at this stage are extremely remote,” it added.

The full statement read: “My team have just met to review the search and rescue operation which has been underway since the plane disappeared on Monday night.

READ MORE: Search for Sala continues as reported recordings emerge

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Emiliano Sala: The Cardiff striker signed on a club-record deal last weekend
Emiliano Sala: The Cardiff striker signed on a club-record deal last weekend
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)

“Despite the best efforts of air and search assets from the Channel Islands, UK and France, which has covered an area of approximately 1,700sq. miles – with a significant amount of this searched more than once – and having examined mobile phone data and satellite imagery, we have been unable to find any trace of the aircraft, the pilot or the passenger.

“There has been over 24 hours of continuous searching, with 80 hours combined flying time across three planes and five helicopters. Two lifeboats have also been involved, as well as assistance from various passing ships and fishing boats.

“We reviewed all the information available to us, as well as knowing what emergency equipment was on board, and have taken the difficult decision to end the search.

“The chances of survival at this stage are extremely remote.

“Next of kin have been informed of this development, and my thoughts go out to the family of the pilot and passenger at this most difficult of times.

“This has been a very thorough and extensive search, co-ordinated from the Guernsey-based Joined Emergency Services Control Centre and has seen exemplary cooperation from all countries involved, for which I would like to extend my personal thanks.

“The final aircraft searching for the missing plane and those on board has now landed. Although we are no longer actively searching, the incident remains open and we will be broadcasting to all vessels and aircraft in the area to keep a look out for any trace of the aircraft. This will continue indefinitely.”

No transfer extension

Cardiff chief executive Ken Choo revealed the club would not be granted an extension to the transfer window by the Premier League despite the disappearance of Sala, who was signed for around £15million only last Saturday.

“I think from the club’s perspective, we are managing the situation but we have another department that has to continue with looking at the transfers,” Choo told talkSPORT.

“We are still running a business which continues, we still have to meet the transfer deadline.

“We have spoken to the Premier League on how tough it is for us to cope given there are eight days to go (until the deadline) and we have been watching Emiliano for months and we got it over the line finally.

“The bottom line from the Premier League is that you have to meet the deadline like everyone else.”

Agent confirms plane arrangements

Football agent Mark McKay said he was involved in the travel arrangements for Sala, telling Sky Sports News: “I can confirm that when Emiliano made myself and his agent Meissa N’Diaye aware that he wished to travel back to Nantes following his medical and signing on Friday, I began to look into arranging a private flight to take him to Nantes on Saturday morning.

“That evening, it was confirmed a plane was available to fly Emiliano on Saturday which could remain in Nantes until he was due to return to Cardiff.

“I have been in contact with officials from Cardiff and the player’s agent over these difficult past few days and will continue to do so.”

On Wednesday a WhatsApp voice message, sent from the footballer before the plane disappeared, came to light.

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

‘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.”

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

‘Lost contact’

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.”