Emiliano Sala: Search for plane used by new Premier League star suspended after unidentified 'floating objects' found

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Emiliano Sala was unveiled as Cardiff’s record signing on Saturday (Getty)
Emiliano Sala was unveiled as Cardiff’s record signing on Saturday (Getty)

Premier League footballer Emiliano Sala is feared dead after it was confirmed he was on board the plane which disappeared over the English Channel.

The Argentine striker was one of two people on the Piper Malibu, when it lost contact near the Casquets lighthouse around eight miles north-west of Alderney at 8.30pm on Monday.

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A search operation took place throughout Tuesday but Guernsey Police tweeted it had been suspended shortly after 5pm, with the search to resume at sunrise on Wednesday.

The authorities added a number of ‘objects’ had been found during their search – but they have not been able to confirm they belonged to the plane.

“During the course of the 15-hour search, which used multiple air and sea assets from the Channel Islands, UK and France, a number of floating objects have been seen in the water,” the tweet read.

“We have been unable to confirm whether any of these are from the missing aircraft.”




 

“I do not think that they are still alive,” Channel Islands Air Search Chief Officer John Fitzgerald told media earlier in the day.

“There was no radio contact between the aircraft and any control tower at the time of the accident. They just… disappeared,” Mr Fitzgerald added.

When asked if he would exclude the possibility of finding them alive, he said: “Oh yes. Absolutely.

“Personally, and I can only speak for myself, I do not think that there is any chance that they are still alive at this point.”

Flowers laid outside the Cardiff City Stadium (Press Association)
Flowers laid outside the Cardiff City Stadium (Press Association)
Flowers laid outside the Cardiff City Stadium (Press Association)
Flowers laid outside the Cardiff City Stadium (Press Association)
Flowers laid outside the Cardiff City Stadium (Press Association)
Flowers laid outside the Cardiff City Stadium (Press Association)

‘We are worried… desperate’

Horatio, Sala’s father, told Argentine media: “I don’t know anything. I’m in Argentina. I spoke to Emiliano on Sunday.

“Still nobody from Nantes has communicated with us, we are worried, desperate, this took us all by surprise.

“I don’t have any information on the journey, the only thing I know is that it was a small plane.

“They are saying that the plane lost control in the channel. I don’t know what could have happened. I am speechless.”

His mother, Mercedes, added: “The plane is from the President of Cardiff City FC, they informed us that the plane had disappeared and that they were looking for it.”


Guernsey Police released a statement on Tuesday morning confirming the search has resumed
Guernsey Police released a statement on Tuesday morning confirming the search has resumed
How the plane went missing (Press Association)
How the plane went missing (Press Association)

Cardiff City released a statement on Tuesday afternoon, saying they ‘continue to pray’ for good news and that they would release further statements as more information became available.

“We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing,” Cardiff CEO Ken Choo said.

“We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team.

“Our owner, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, and chairman, Mehmet Dalman, are all very distressed about the situation.

“We made the decision first thing this morning to call off training with the thoughts of the squad, management staff and the entire Club with Emiliano and the pilot.

“All of us at Cardiff City FC would like to thank our fans, and the entire footballing family for their support at this difficult time.

“We continue to pray for positive news.”

Nantes described the news of the plane’s disappearance as “very disturbing” and said in a statement the whole whole were praying that “Emiliano and the other passengers of the plane are finally found safe and sound.”


“I’m thinking of his friends, his family,” club president Waldemar Kita said. “I’ll always have hope, he’s a fighter. It’s not over, maybe he’s somewhere.

“Waiting for some news that we hope will be positive, we are very touched by all the support received since this morning.”

The club also called for supporters to join a rally this evening at the Place Royale in Nantes and lay a yellow tulip a the foot of its fountain.

Guernsey Police posted on Twitter on Tuesday morning that the search had resumed at 8am but that there was still no trace of the light PA 46 Malibu plane – worsening weather conditions mean a decision over whether or not the search will continue overnight will be made at sunset.

Conditions during the search last night were challenging, with wave heights of up to two metres, with heavy rain showers and poor visibility

Sala signed for Cardiff City in a club-record deal on Saturday after joining the club from Nantes for £15million.


Sala posted a photo to his Instagram and Twitter accounts on Monday afternoon posing with the rest of the Nantes squad.

He captioned the photo: “The final [heart emoji] goodbye @FCNantes.”

The transfer was a record signing for Cardiff and the player was due to appear for training at the club’s ground on Tuesday.

“I’m very happy to be here,” he said on Saturday. “It gives me great pleasure and I can’t wait to start training, meet my new teammates and get down to work.”

‘All the team thinking of you’

Amine Harit, a Moroccan footballer who played with Sala at Nantes before joining German side FC Schalke in 2017, suggested he was praying for the missing player in a tweet.

He wrote simply “Emi..” followed by a string of praying hands and crying emojis.

Nantes forward Randal Kolo-Muani retweeted Harit’s message on his personal account, while the club’s president Waldemar Kita said Sala went back to France to say goodbye to his team-mates.

“Loved by everyone… always very respectful, very courteous,” he said. “Sincerely, he’s an adorable boy.”



Emiliano Sala’s most recent Instagram post wished goodbye to his Nantes teammates
Emiliano Sala’s most recent Instagram post wished goodbye to his Nantes teammates

Sala’s former club, Chamois Niortais FC, has tweeted that the whole team is thinking of the missing player.

“Tell us it’s a joke… Emi…. All the #TeamChamois thinking of you,” tweeted the clubs’s official account.

FC Nantes’ next Coupe de France match – against L’Entente SSG – has been postponed, with the match moved to Sunday January 27.

Announcing the fixture change on its website, L’Entente SSG sent support to FC Nantes and Sala’s family.

Fans of the French club will gather in the centre of the city later this evening and lay tulips to show that Sala is in their thoughts.

‘Sightings of red flares’

The Channel Islands Air Search aircraft was called out to assist the Guernsey Coastguard’s search efforts at 8.30pm on Monday night.

The Air Search 1 aircraft, combined with the Alderney and St Peter Port lifeboats and two UK Coast Guard helicopters, searched areas extending north and north-west of Les Casquets reef, a spokeswoman said.

She added: “During the search, reports of sightings of red flares were relayed by Guernsey Coastguard near to the island of Burhou, however nothing of significance was found.”

Sala joined from French Ligue 1 club Nantes.
Sala joined from French Ligue 1 club Nantes.

The Alderney lifeboat said it launched at 8.50pm on Monday night. HM Coastguard said the incident was not in the UK search and rescue area, although it had sent two helicopters to help.

“At that time there were some showers around, but nothing too intense. Wind speeds were not too bad – average speeds were around 15 to 20mph,” Met Office meteorologist Mark Wilson said.

“But it has got pretty wet, we’ve seen a band of rain push down from the north-west. That rain set in around 11.30pm to midnight and it’s still raining now.

“It’s also a bit windier, with gusts around 35mph.”

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