Emiliano Sala plane wreckage found in Channel



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Wreckage from a plane carrying Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala has been discovered in the English Channel.

The Piper Malibu N264DB was lost on 21 January on its way from Nantes, France, to Cardiff, with the Argentine striker and pilot David Ibbotson on board.

Accident investigators are expected to send a submersible to inspect the wreckage later on Monday.

David Mearns, who led a privately-funded search for the aircraft, said it was located off Guernsey on Sunday.

He said: "All I will say, is that there is a substantial amount of wreckage on the seabed."

Mr Mearns' private search has now been stood down and the Air Accident Investigation Branch is at the site working to recover the plane.

In a series of tweets, marine scientist Mr Mearns said: "The families of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson have been notified by police."

He added: "Our sole thoughts are with the families and friends of Emiliano and David."

Speaking to Argentinian broadcaster Cronica TV, Sala's father Horacio said: "I cannot believe it. This is a dream. A bad dream. I am desperate."

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

The 28-year-old player and Mr Ibbotson, 59, from Crowle, North Lincolnshire, were travelling from Nantes, where he had previously played, when the flight lost contact with air traffic controllers.

An official search operation was called off on 24 January after Guernsey's harbour master said the chances of survival were "extremely remote".

Cushions believed to be from the plane were found on a beach near Surtainville, on France's Cotentin Peninsula, last week.

There were emotional tributes to the footballer as Cardiff played their first home game since the disappearance earlier on Saturday.

An online appeal had raised £324,000 for the private search, which began on Sunday.

Working jointly with the AAIB, Mr Mearns' ship and another search vessel, the Geo Ocean III, began combing a four square mile area of the channel, 24 nautical miles north of Guernsey.

Mr Mearns had said the AAIB had a "high confidence level" that the plane would be found in the area they were searching.

The AAIB ship has remained at the site where the missing Piper plane was located, to deploy an underwater search vehicle to make a visual confirmation.

A recovery operation will then begin.

Officials at the AAIB said they expected to give an update on the operation on Monday morning.

BBC