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Body recovered from plane wreckage is Emiliano Sala, police confirm

The body was last night recovered from the wreckage.

Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

Updated Feb 7th 2019, 10:58 PM

THE BODY RECOVERED from the wreckage of the plane in the English Channel is that of footballer Emiliano Sala, according to police. 

A body was last night recovered from the wreckage and it was transported to Dorset in England earlier today. 

Dorset Police has this evening confirmed that the body is that of Emiliano Sala. 

The light aircraft was carrying the 28-year-old footballer to his new Premier League team Cardiff City when it disappeared near the British island of Guernsey on 21 January, along with 59-year-old pilot David Ibbotson.

The families of Sala and Ibbotson have been updated with this evening’s news and will continue to be supported by specially-trained family liaison officers, according to police. 

“Our thoughts remain with them at this difficult time,” police said. 

HM Coroner will continue to investigate the circumstances of the death, supported by Dorset Police. 

Earlier today, Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) that bad weather meant they were unable to recover the plane and as a result, it was closing down the operation.

Sala’s disappearance prompted an outpouring of grief across the footballing world, including at his former club Nantes in France where the plane was flying from.

After search operations were suspended, a shipwreck hunter hired by Sala’s family, with funds donated by football stars such as Lionel Messi, found the wreckage on Sunday.

The rescued body was taken to Portland Harbour in southern England on board the Geo Ocean III offshore supply ship earlier today. 

It was then stretchered into a silver van, with Dorset Police confirming it had “left the boat and left the port”, before being taken to a nearby mortuary for identification and a post-mortem.

Accident report expected

The AAIB had on Monday confirmed that an unidentified body had been found at the site.

“In challenging conditions, the AAIB and its specialist contractors successfully recovered the body previously seen amidst the wreckage,” the AAIB said yesterday.

“The operation was carried out in as dignified a way as possible.”

But it added: “The weather forecast is poor for the foreseeable future and so the difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close”.

It said that extensive video footage captured by a remotely operated vehicle is expected to “provide valuable evidence for our safety investigation,” adding that it intends to publish an interim report on the accident later this month. 

Private search

Sala had been flying in to join up with his new club Cardiff City in what was the most expensive signing in the Welsh club’s history.

Nantes have consulted lawyers to explore legal options to ensure Cardiff pay the transfer fee for Sala, a source close to the French club revealed yesterday.

According to the source, the first instalment of the €17 million deal for the Argentine striker has yet to be paid, despite the transfer being finalised before the accident.

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According to BBC Wales, Nantes have given Cardiff a 10-day ultimatum over the first payment of between five and six million euros.

A source at Cardiff told British media that the Welsh club will honour the contract but only once they have clarified “all the facts”. Cardiff are said to be “surprised” with the timing of the demand so soon after the tragedy.

The plane, a Piper PA-46 Malibu, vanished from radar around 20 kilometres north of Guernsey, with pilot Ibbotson the only other person aboard.

After the official rescue team gave up their search, saying there was little chance of finding anyone alive, Sala’s family raised more than €370,000 in an online campaign to pay for a private hunt.

“Had that not happened, I don’t think anybody would have searched for the plane,” shipwreck hunter David Mearns, whose private company found the plane, told AFP.

The discovery of two seat cushions on the French coast last week revealed that the plane had broken apart, Mearns added.

Earlier this week the footballer’s father, Horacio Sala, acknowledged that there was no prospect of finding his son alive.

“There’s no longer any hope,” he told Fox Sports.

- © AFP, 2019 with reporting by Hayley Halpin

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