Body Recovered From Wreckage of Plane Carrying Soccer Player Sala: UK Investigator

February 7, 2019 Updated: February 7, 2019

A body has been recovered from the wreckage of the plane that was carrying Argentina-born professional soccer player Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) in Britain said late on Feb. 6.

The agency didn’t disclose the identity of the body.

Sala, 28, had been en route from Nantes in western France on Jan. 21 to make his debut for Premier League team Cardiff City when the plane disappeared over the English Channel.

The wreckage was found on Feb. 3, following a privately-funded underwater search. Two seat cushions were discovered on the French coast that likely belonged to the aircraft.

Officials in the United Kingdom said there is likely no chance that Premier League soccer player Emiliano Sala would be found alive (Stephane Mabe/Reuters)

A body was visible inside when the wreckage was on the seabed near Guernsey, air accident investigators had said on Feb. 4.

Speaking at the time, Sala’s father, Horacio, reportedly said, “I cannot believe it. This is a dream. A bad dream. I am desperate.”

A ship searches the English channel for missing footballer Emiliano Sala on Jan. 22, 2019. (Guernsey Police)

The body was “successfully recovered” but attempts to recover the aircraft wreckage were unsuccessful, the AAIB said in a statement on Feb. 6. The overall operation was halted because of “poor weather conditions,” the agency said.

Emiliano Sala in action
Emiliano Sala in action at La Beaujoire Stadium, Nantes, on March 18, 2017. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters)

Sala had agreed to join the Welsh club for a club-record fee of 15 million pounds ($19.63 million) from French Ligue 1 club Nantes. He and the pilot are believed to have died as the single-engined Piper Malibu aircraft crashed into the sea.

On Feb. 2 at Cardiff’s home Premier League match against Bournemouth, the Cardiff players held up a T-shirt bearing the image of Sala, who never played a game for the club, after the team scored in the fifth minute.

The Cardiff City mascot shows its respects for Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match between Cardiff City and AFC Bournemouth at Cardiff City Stadium on Feb. 2, 2019. (Warren Little/Getty Images)
Cardiff City
Sol Bamba of Cardiff City leads the team out with a bouquet of flowers as a memorial to Emiliano Sala before a match at Cardiff City Stadium on Feb. 2, 2019. (Warren Little/Getty Images)
Cardiff City
Neil Warnock, Manager of Cardiff City wears a daffodil on his jacket as a tribute to Emiliano Sala prior to the match at Cardiff City Stadium on Feb. 2, 2019. (Warren Little/Getty Images)

Fans were handed daffodils as they entered the Cardiff City Stadium. In the 28th minute, a round of applause swelled around the stadium as fans sang Sala’s name.

On Jan. 30, Nantes paid tribute to their former player. Referee Frank Schneider stopped play in the Ligue 1 match against St. Etienne for a minute of applause, during which Nantes coach Vahid Halilhodzic was in tears.

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