Emiliano Sala: investigators spot body among plane wreckage

Underwater search reveals one unidentified occupant visible amid debris

Sala plane wreckage
(Image credit: AAIB)

A body has been sighted in the underwater wreckage of the plane that crashed while carrying newly signed Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala, according to investigators.

The news follows the discovery on Sunday of the Piper Malibu light aircraft on the seabed off Guernsey, by a search crew hired by Sala’s family. The former Nantes FC striker and pilot David Ibbotson were the only passengers on board when the plane disappeared over the Channel on 21 January, after leaving France at about 7.15pm to take Sala to his new home in the Welsh capital.

A statement issued by the UK’s Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) said: “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.

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

The body “has not been identified”, reports Sky News.

Newly released images of the wreckage show “the rear left side of the fuselage, including part of the aircraft registration, N264DB”, says The Independent.

A decision “has yet to be taken on whether to raise the wreckage to the surface”, adds the paper.

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

The BBC reports that the government agency deployed an “underwater search vehicle to make a visual confirmation” after the shipwreck specialist leading the private search, David Mearns, confirmed that the aircraft had been located.

The Guardian says the wreckage of the plane was discovered “within hours” of the private search commencing, which will “raise questions over whether [a search by the AAIB] could have been launched within the first few days”.

The agency said it had been “looking at the possibility of a seabed search” since the aircraft vanished, but the search efforts were delayed by poor weather.

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