A body recovered from the plane of footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson has been identified as belonging to Sala. However, investigators had to call off further search work due to weather.
Investigators said on Thursday that they had recovered a body from the wreckage of a small plane that had crashed in the English Channel while carrying Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson. The remains were brought to the UK mainland for identification, where they were then identified by a coroner as that of Sala.
"The body brought to Portland Port today has been formally identified by HM Coroner for Dorset as that of professional footballer Emiliano Sala," Dorest police said in a statement. "The families of Mr. Sala and the pilot David Ibbotson have been updated with this news and will continue to be supported by specially-trained family liaison officers. Our thoughts remain with them at this difficult time."
Investigators were not able to recover the plane, however. Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) announced that the weather conditions were too adverse to continue the salvage operations.
"In challenging conditions, the AAIB and its specialist contractors successfully recovered the body previously seen amidst the wreckage," the AAIB said, adding that "the weather forecast is poor for the foreseeable future, and so the difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close."
Nantes demands Sala's fee from Cardiff
Sala, 28, and Ibbotson, 59, disappeared 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the island Guernsey in the English Channel on January 21. Sala was leaving his former club in Nantes in France to play in his first game for Welsh side Cardiff City. He had just signed the most expensive deal in the club's history.
The private flight was arranged by Sala's management team, who have said they contracted a firm they had used several times before.
The aircraft was a Piper PA-46 Malibu, built in 1984 and last certified for airworthiness in 2015. The discovery of debris on the French coast on January 30 means that the plane likely fell apart.
After the initial search was called off, Sala's family was able to crowdfund the fee for private shipwreck hunter David Mearns, who found the plane.
Nantes is reportedly demanding Cardiff pay the transfer fee for Sala's contract, which was finalized before the tragedy. Officials at the Welsh team said they were "surprised" at the timing of the demand so soon after the player's death, but that they would, of course, honor the agreement after "all the facts" were established.
cmb, es/ng (AFP, AP)