Rescue workers to resume search for plane carrying Cardiff footballer

Rescue workers are expected to resume their search for a plane carrying Cardiff City’s new record signing Emiliano Sala at sunrise after the light aircraft disappeared over the English Channel.

Five aircraft and two lifeboats scoured more than 1,000 square miles for traces of the plane on Monday after it disappeared from radar en route from Nantes in France to Cardiff.

Guernsey Police said the chances of passenger survival were “slim”, with Cardiff City’s chief executive has said everyone at the club is in “shock”.

Sala had scored 12 goals in 19 games in Ligue 1 for Nantes this season and was brought in to bolster the attack for the Premier League strugglers for a fee of around £15 million.

The 28-year-old posted a picture with his former Nantes team-mates on Monday captioned “the last goodbye” before flying to Wales.

John Fitzgerald, chief officer of Channel Islands Air Search, said: “I think with the sea temperatures and the sea conditions, the chances of finding anybody alive are reducing all the time.

AIR Channel
(PA Graphics)

“The sea temperatures are very, very cold and just sap the core temperature of anybody in the water very, very quickly.”

Guernsey Police said: “Conditions during the search last night were challenging, with wave heights of up to two metres, with heavy rain showers and poor visibility.

“Today the sea is much calmer and although visibility was good, it is now deteriorating.”

The single-turbine engine Piper PA-46 Malibu, carrying the footballer and his pilot, left Nantes at 7.15pm for Cardiff and was flying at an altitude of 5,000ft.

As it was passing Guernsey, the pilot “requested descent” but Jersey air traffic control lost contact while it was flying at 2,300ft around 15 miles north of Guernsey.

Rescue teams were scrambled but were unable to find anything on Monday night, with the search resuming at 8am on Tuesday.

Nantes supporters sang songs in support of Sala in the heart of the city on Tuesday night.

The club, nicknamed the Canaries, called for supporters to join together at Place Royale on Tuesday evening, where yellow tulips and other tributes were laid.

Sala’s father Horacio told Argentinian news channel C5N he was “desperate” after hearing the plane was missing.

“I was working, I can’t believe it. I am desperate,” he said. “Hopefully there will be good news.”

He added: “I don’t know what could have happened. My family knew nothing, I told them.”

Tu es plus qu’un joueur, @EmilianoSala1.#PrayForSalapic.twitter.com/P5D9wtkoTK

— FC Nantes (@FCNantes) January 22, 2019

Ken Choo, chief executive of the Bluebirds, said: “We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing.

“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.”

He added: “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.”