The plane that crashed into the English channel with footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson on board will not be recovered from the seabed, accident investigators have announced.
An unidentified body was yesterday removed from the wreckage, which was discovered between Guernsey and the Devon coastline, and brought to shore.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said that the recovery was carried out in “as dignified a way as possible” and the men’s families were kept updated throughout.
But poor weather conditions have hampered efforts to bring the wreckage to the surface and the decision was made today to end the operation.
“Unfortunately, attempts to recover the aircraft wreckage were unsuccessful before poor weather conditions forced us to return the ROV (remotely operated vehicle) to the ship,” officials said.
“The weather forecast is poor for the foreseeable future and so the difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close.
“Although it was not possible to recover the aircraft, the extensive video record captured by the ROV is expected to provide valuable evidence for our safety investigation.
“We expect our next update to be an interim report, which we intend to publish within one month of the accident occurring.”
On Thursday morning, the recovered body was brought to Portland, Dorset, by the Geo Ocean III boat, and taken on a stretcher to an ambulance, before being passed into the care of the Dorset Coroner.
Dorset Police said in a statement: “The arrival of the body into Dorset has been reported to the Coroner for Dorset. The Coroner will investigate the circumstances of this death supported by Dorset Police. A post mortem examination will be held in due course.
“While formal identification is yet to take place, the families of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson have been updated and will continue to be supported by specially-trained family liaison officers, during this difficult time.”
The 28-year-old Sala was the only passenger on the Piper Malibu plane being flown by British pilot Ibbotson when it went missing on 21 January.
The official search was called off on 24 January after Guernsey’s harbour master said the chances of survival were “extremely remote”.
But after an online appeal started by Sala’s agent raised £324,000 for a private search, led by marine scientist and oceanographer David Mearns, the wreckage was eventually discovered on 4 February.
Mr Mearns said the plane was identified by sonar, before a submersible with cameras was sent underwater to confirm the finding.
The AAIB used the ROV to aid the search, with no divers involved.
Sala’s plane went down on his return to Cardiff where he was due to join up with his new club for the first time, after transferring from Nantes in the January transfer window.
Nantes and Cardiff are currently at odds over the transfer fee after the Ligue 1 club requested the first of three instalments totalling £15m be paid immediately.
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