We can’t leave him out there on his own, say family of missing pilot

The family of missing pilot David Ibbotson have said "we can't leave him out there on his own" as more than £140,000 was raised to restart searches.

Mr Ibbotson was flying a light aircraft carrying Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala when it lost contact with air traffic control over the Channel, north of Guernsey, on January 21.

But following a privately funded search, a body recovered from the underwater wreckage was formally identified as Sala last week.

Tributes at Cardiff City Stadium for Emiliano Sal
Tributes at Cardiff City Stadium for Emiliano Sala (Aaron Chown/PA)

Mr Ibbotson's wife Nora told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "We're still holding on a little bit. Obviously we do know he's gone but we want him back.

"We're a very close family, he supported us all, he was our rock.

"We can't leave him out there on his own. Until we've tried to do everything we can, this is why we've done the appeal."

A GoFundMe page to restart the search for Mr Ibbotson, 59, of Lincolnshire, has nearly reached half of its £300,000 target thanks to donations under the names of Gary Lineker and French footballer Kylian Mbappe.

Through tears, his daughter Danielle told the programme she repeatedly rang his mobile phone when told by police the aircraft was missing.

She said: "He was amazing, I was so lucky to have him as a dad.

"I know it might take a long time but I don't want this to just be it."

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Emiliano Sala
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Emiliano Sala
A picture shows flowers put in front of the entrance of the training center La Joneliere in La Chapelle-sur-Erdre on January 25, 2019, four days after the plane of Argentinian forward Emiliano Sala vanished during a flight from Nantes, (AFP Photo/LOIC VENANCE)
File photo dated 26/01/19 of a tribute to Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala shown on the big screen during the FA Cup fourth round match at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. Wreckage from the plane which disappeared with Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson on board has been found in the English Channel, search director David Mearns said.
A picture of Emiliano Sala is shown on the big screen in tribute to the missing footballer at Cardiff City Stadium during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock during a minutes silence in memory of Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff City players during a minutes silence for Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff City's Callum Paterson warms up ahead of the match whilst wearing a Emiliano Sala t-shirt during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
A view of the match day programme with an image of Emiliano Sala on the cover in remembrance during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff City fans wear dafodiles to honour missing footballer Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Fans look on at the flowers and scarves placed outside Cardiff City Stadium in tribute to Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Fans looking on at the flowers and scarves placed outside Cardiff City Stadium in tribute to Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
A view of half and half scarves placed outside Cardiff City Stadium in tribute to Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
A view of a hat with written messages in tribute to Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Watford and Tottenham Hotspur players during a minute's silence paying tribute to Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson before the Premier League match at Wembley Stadium, London.
Cardiff City fans in the stands with a banner reading 'Emiliano Forever in our hearts' during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London.
Cardiff City fans in the stands with a flag reading 'Emiliano Sala Forever a Bluebird' during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London.
General view of the matchday programme which includes missing footballer Emiliano Sala in the Cardiff City squad alongside a yellow daffodil before the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London.
Emiliano Sala's sister Romina (left) and mother Mercedes (centre) listen to Blue Water Recoveries director David Mearns talk about plans to find and recover the plane carrying the missing footballer and pilot David Ibbotson which disappeared over the English Channel, during a press conference at Guernsey airport.
Middlesbrough fans show their support for missing footballer Emiliano Sala during the FA Cup fourth round match at Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough.
FC Nantes football club supporters place flowers and a club scarf in the main square of the city of Nantes, France, on 25 January 2019. Four days after the disappearance of the plane of the former Argentinian forward of the Football Club of Nantes (FC Nantes) Emiliano Sala, the emotion of the supporters of the club and the Nantes did not fall. (Photo by Estelle Ruiz/NurPhoto/Sipa USA)
People Of Nantes Continue To Pay Tribute To Emiliano Sala in Nantes, France, on 25 January 2019. Four days after the disappearance of the plane of the former Argentinian forward of the Football Club of Nantes (FC Nantes) Emiliano Sala, the emotion of the supporters of the club and the Nantes did not fall. (Photo by Estelle Ruiz/NurPhoto/Sipa USA)
The body is being taken to Portland to be passed over to the Dorset coroner for examination.
The St John Marine Ambulance, Flying Christine III, shrouded in fog as it is moored in Guernsey harbour. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
A view of the FPV Morven survey vessel moored in Guernsey Harbour which was used to discover the wreckage of the plane that was carrying footballer Emiliano Sala. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
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Asked about a joke on Facebook he made about "feeling a bit rusty" before the flight, Mrs Ibbotson replied: "That's just Dave."

She added she wanted a search team "just to go down and have a last look, a proper look" so that "our family unit can be back, so we can go and visit him, just to know that he's there".

Mrs Ibbotson said they have not been in contact with the family of Sala as they are both grieving, but said "we've always thought about them" and she sent her "deepest condolences".

Missing plane wreckage found
(PA Graphics)

The initial search for the missing striker and Mr Ibbotson was called off on January 24 but, following calls for it to continue from the likes of Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona, a private one funded by online donations was launched.

It led to the discovery of the Piper PA-46 Malibu aircraft and a body, which was formally identified as Sala.

The aircraft remains 67 metres under water 21 miles off the coast of Guernsey in the English Channel.

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