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Emiliano Sala search: ‘One occupant’ visible in wrecked plane after crash, rescuers say

Footage filmed using underwater remotely operated vehicle shows aircraft's fuselage

Samuel Osborne
Monday 04 February 2019 12:40 GMT
Missing Cardiff footballer Emiliano Sala - What we know so far

Rescuers say one occupant is visible in the wreckage of the light aircraft that crashed while carrying missing Argentinian footballer Emiliano Sala.

Wreckage from the single-engine Piper Malibu N264DB was found at the bottom of the English Channel, 13 days after it disappeared after leaving Nantes in France for Cardiff.

It is unclear if the body inside is that of the Cardiff City footballer or pilot David Ibbotson.

“Based on analysis of ROV (underwater remotely operated vehicle) video footage, the AAIB investigators on board the vessel concluded that the object is wreckage from the missing Piper Malibu aircraft,” the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said in a statement.

“Tragically, in video footage from the ROV, one occupant is visible amidst the wreckage.”

The image shows the rear left side of the fuselage, including part of the aircraft registration, N264DB.

A decision has yet to be taken on whether to raise the wreckage to the surface.

The statement added: “The AAIB is now considering the next steps, in consultation with the families of the pilot and passenger, and the police.”

Still from handout video issued by Air Accidents Investigation Branch showing the rear left side of the fuselage, including part of the aircraft registration, in the wreckage of the plane which was carrying Sala (PAAAIB/PA)

The search operation consists of a privately-funded team led by renowned underwater explorer David Mearns, who announced the wreckage had been found by the FPV Morven survey vessel early on Sunday.

“We located the plane, the wreckage of the plane, on the seabed ... Very shortly after we started searching, within the first couple of hours,” Mr Mearns told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Handout image issued showing position where the wreckage of the plane was discovered in the English Channel

Sala’s father spoke of his anguish and disbelief after the wreckage was discovered.

“I cannot believe it. This is a dream. A bad dream. I am desperate,” Horacio Sala told local broadcaster Cronica TV from his home in Argentina on Sunday.

An official search operation was called off on 24 January after Guernsey’s harbour master Captain David Barker said the chances of survival following such a long period were “extremely remote”.

Two seat cushions, which are likely to have come from the plane, were found last week off the French coast.

Cardiff had signed the footballer for a club record £15m and he was due to start training last month.

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