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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 25 February 2021

'We can’t leave him out there on his own': Family of missing Sala pilot tries to revive search efforts

Ibbotson was flying Emiliano Sala from Nantes to the UK when their plane crashed in the English Channel last month.

Missing pilot, David Ibbotson
Missing pilot, David Ibbotson
Image: GoFundMe

THE FAMILY OF the pilot of the small plane that crashed over the Channel while flying Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala to Britain have spoken of their grief for the first time as they campaign to fund further search efforts. 

Appearing on Good Morning Britain, the family of David Ibbotson said they would not give up looking for the missing pilot. 

Ibbotson was flying Cardiff City’s Emiliano Sala from Nantes to the UK when their plane crashed in the English Channel last month. 

British rescuers formally identified the one body pulled from the submerged wreckage as that of the 28-year-old striker on Thursday. But strong currents and winter weather forced them to call off the search before locating 59-year-old Ibbotson – the only other person on the Piper Malibu propeller aircraft.

Ibbotson’s wife and daughter, Nora and Danielle, set up a fundraising page over the weekend to restart the search and help find his remains.

In their first public interview, the family said they were appealing for help to restart the search because they “just want him home”. 

He’s been a brilliant husband, he’s supported us all, he was our supporter, he was our rock. We can’t leave him out there on his own.

“We can’t leave him out there on his own until we’ve tried everything we can,” Nora said.

The family’s GoFundMe page has raised around £150,000 as of this afternoon – half of its stated goal of £300,000.

To be told the search has now been called off for the foreseeable future has only made this tragic time more difficult. We can not bare the thought of him being alone, we need him home so that we are able to lay him to rest.

“Any donations would be very much appreciated. To ensure a search is done so we are able to give David the correct send off he deserves and to support the family,” the donation page states. 

‘In our prayers’  

Emiliano Sala’s family said on Friday that his body’s recovery and identification could help bring closure to “the most painful time of our life”.

“We can now begin to mourn our son and our brother,” they said in a statement.

The Ibbotsons said they have not been in touch with the Sala family since the accident but they have been in their prayers. 

“We know they are grieving the same as us. We’ve always thought about them in our prayers,” Nora said. 

“As a mother, I couldn’t imagine what she [Emiliano's mother] is going through and I send my deepest condolences to them.”  

With reporting from © – AFP 2019

About the author:

Adam Daly

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