EMILIANO SALA IS YET TO BE FOUND
Rescue workers on Thursday spent a third day hunting for a missing plane near the British island of Guernsey carrying new Premier League player Emiliano Sala, who is now presumed dead along with the pilot.
The light aircraft transporting the Argentine striker, who signed for Cardiff City at the weekend, disappeared from radar around 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Guernsey on Monday night.
“The search is ongoing and a decision about continuing will be made once all assets have completed this morning’s search pattern,” Guernsey police said on Twitter at 1050 GMT.
Police on the island, which sits off the north coast of France, had earlier announced a resumption of the search after suspending efforts overnight.
Officials scoured the uninhabited island of Burhou, northeast of Guernsey, by foot Thursday morning, according to the force.
“No trace of the aircraft or those on board has been found,” it added.
Multiple aircraft, including from Britain and France, and lifeboats were used in the intensive search on Tuesday and Wednesday.
A pilot involved in the operations said there was now “no chance” of finding survivors.
Mike Tidd, from Channel Islands Air Search — a voluntary rescue service for local waters — told Britain’s ITV: “The area has been very well covered, there is absolutely no chance of finding anybody alive now.”
He added that the most rescuers could hope to do was “pinpoint where the aircraft went in”.
‘It’s going to fall apart’
Sala, who signed on Saturday from French club Nantes for a reported fee of 17 million euros ($19.3 million), was flying to Cardiff in a single-engine Piper PA-46 Malibu aircraft.
Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), which is probing the disappearance, said the plane was registered in the United States.
It has emerged the Argentine footballer expressed concerns about the jet on the flight, according to an audio message sent to friends and relatives.
“I’m on a plane that looks like it’s going to fall apart,” the 28-year-old said in a rambling WhatsApp audio message from on board.
Police earlier said rescuers had spotted “a number of floating objects in the water” but had not been able to confirm whether these were linked to the plane.
The Guernsey coastguard on Wednesday named the pilot, the only other person in the plane, as David Ibbotson.
British media said he was a 60-year-old married father of three and lived in Scunthorpe in northern England.
Football agent Mark McKay confirmed Thursday he was involved in making the travel arrangements for Sala between France and Wales through the player and his agent Meissa N’Diaye.
“I began to look into arranging a private flight to take him to Nantes on Saturday morning,” he told Britain’s Sky Sports News.
“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.”
In Sala’s Argentine hometown of Progreso, his father Horacio told the press on Tuesday that as “the hours go by and I don’t know anything, it makes me fear the worst”.
The striker, who had been at Nantes since 2015 and had scored 13 goals in all competitions this season, had signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with relegation-threatened Cardiff subject to receiving international clearance.
The club called off Tuesday’s training session, and stunned supporters laid flowers and scarves outside the club’s stadium.
Tributes were paid to Sala at several French Cup matches this week, while his former Nantes teammate Yacine Bammou pointed towards the sky in an emotional celebration after scoring for Caen on Wednesday.