Emiliano Sala search: Body recovered from plane but investigators cannot say whether it is the footballer or his pilot

The Piper Malibu plane carrying the Argentine was found by a privately-funded search crew on Sunday after it disappeared from radar over the English Channel on January 21


                            Emiliano Sala search: Body recovered from plane but investigators cannot say whether it is the footballer or his pilot

Investigators recovered a body on Wednesday from the wreckage of an aircraft that crashed into the English Channel with footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson on board. Reports state that nearly two weeks after the aircraft's disappearance, the plane's wreckage and a body inside it was spotted this week. The body has reportedly been transported off the coast of Dorset.

The Piper Malibu plane was found by a privately-funded search crew on Sunday after it disappeared from radar over the English Channel on January 21. The plane was carrying the 28-year-old Argentinian football star from Nantes in France to Cardiff after his £15m move to Cardiff City and was being piloted by 59-year-old David Ibbotson.

It is not yet clear whether the body is of the footballer or of Ibbotson's. A full examination by a coroner in Portland, Dorset is scheduled to take place soon to determine the identity of the body, according to the Daily Mail

The LED screen shows a tribute to Emiliano Sala prior to the FA Cup Fourth Round match between Swansea City and Gillingham at Liberty Stadium on January 26, 2019 in Swansea, United Kingdom. (Getty Images)
The LED screen shows a tribute to Emiliano Sala prior to the FA Cup Fourth Round match between Swansea City and Gillingham at Liberty Stadium on January 26, 2019 in Swansea, United Kingdom. (Getty Images)

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) released a statement on Wednesday night saying that remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) were used in "challenging conditions" to pull the body out of the water "in as dignified a way as possible."

The aircraft, however, remains over 200 feet below water and is 21 miles off the coast of Guernsey in the English Channel. Reports state that poor weather conditions halted the crew's efforts to recover it. The operation has now been ceased.

"Following extensive visual examination of the accident site using the remotely operated vehicle (ROV), it was decided to attempt recovery operations," AAIB said. "In challenging conditions, the AAIB and its specialist contractors successfully recovered the body previously seen amidst the wreckage. The operation was carried out in as dignified a way as possible and the families were kept informed of progress."



 

"Unfortunately, attempts to recover the aircraft wreckage were unsuccessful before poor weather conditions forced us to return the ROV to the ship," the statement continued.

"The weather forecast is poor for the foreseeable future and so the difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close. The body is currently being taken to Portland to be passed into the care of the Dorset Coroner."

"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," AAIB added.

Romina Sala (C), sister of Emiliano Sala, visits tributes at the Cardiff City Stadium on January 25, 2019 in Cardiff, Wales. (Getty Images)
Romina Sala (C), sister of Emiliano Sala, visits tributes at the Cardiff City Stadium on January 25, 2019 in Cardiff, Wales. (Getty Images)

The official search for the plane was called off on January 24 after Guernsey's harbormaster claimed that the chances of survival were "extremely remote" for those on board the aircraft. However, Sala's agent raised £324,000 ($4,17,935.7) through an online appeal to launch a private search for the aircraft.

Oceanographer and marine scientist David Mearns volunteered to assist the search team and the remains of the aircraft were subsequently tracked down. Mearns has located some of the most elusive wrecks in the world, according to reports.

The AAIB said it will soon release an interim report of the wreckage and the body within a month.