Emiliano Sala: What we know about the missing Cardiff City footballer after his plane disappeared over the Channel

Jack de Menezes

Guernsey Police have called an end to the search operation for Cardiff City club-record signing Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson, stating that their chance of survival is “extremely remote”, having found “no trace” of the plane which went missing over the English Channel on Monday night.

A decision was taken this morning to continue a third day of searches, but chief officer of Channel Islands Air Search, John Fitzgerald, said that there is “no hope” of finding the pair.

In a statement on Thursday afternoon, Harbour Master Captain David Barker said: “My team have just me to review the search and rescue operation which has been underway since the plane disappeared on Monday night.

“Despite the best efforts of air and search assets from the Channel Islands, UK and France, which has covered an area of approximately 1,700sq. miles – with a significant amount of this searched more than once – and having examined mobile phone data and satellite imagery, we have been unable to find any trace of the aircraft, the pilot or the passenger.

“There has been over 24 hours of continuous searching, with 80 hours combined flying time across three planes and five helicopters. Two lifeboats have also been involved, as well as assistance from various passing ships and fishing boats.

“We reviewed all the information available to us, as well as knowing what emergency equipment was on board, and have taken the difficult decision to end the search.

“The chances of survival at this stage are extremely remote.”

Here’s what we know at this stage of the search.

  • A Piper PA-46 Malibu light aircraft carrying new Cardiff City signing Emiliano Sala and one pilot departed Nantes at 7:15pm destined for the Welsh capital and was flying at around 5,000ft.
  • The aircraft requested to descend near Guernsey and dipped to 2,300ft where it disappeared from radar and air traffic control just off the coast of Alderney.
  • Guernsey Coastguard received an alert at 8:23pm from Jersey Air Traffic Control to say the aircraft has gone off their radar approximately 15 miles north of Guernsey.
  • Rescue teams were in the water off Alderney by 9pm, but rescue attempts had to be abandoned between 2am and 3am Tuesday morning as weather conditions deteriorated.
  • The search for the missing plane resumed at 8am on Tuesday morning with five aircrafts and two lifeboats from British and French maritime authorities looking for signs of a crash in an operation co-ordinated by the Joint Emergency Services Control Centre.
  • Despite 15 hours of searching more than 11,500sq miles of water surrounding Alderley, a number of “floating objects” were retrieved, but none of these could be confirmed to be from the aircraft.
  • Rescue teams found “no signs of those on board”, and said that chances of survival if they landed in the water at this stage are “unfortunately slim”.
  • Chief executive of the Channel Islands Air Search, John Fitzgerald said rescue teams “are not expecting anyone to be alive” and that “we just don’t know how it disappeared”.
  • Cardiff City were expecting Sala to report for his first day at the club on Tuesday after signing from Ligue 1 side Nantes on Saturday.
  • Sala flew to Cardiff last week on the same aircraft, and only returned to France to say goodbye to his Nantes teammates on Monday.
  • Cardiff paid around £15m for the 28-year-old to break their club-record transfer, surpassing the previous record of £11m paid to Sevilla for Gary Medel in 2013.
  • The search will resume at sunrise on Tuesday morning.
  • The search recommenced at 8am on Tuesday with two planes focusing on a “targeted area” where there is the “highest likelihood” of finding anything based on a review of tides and the weather.
  • Coastal areas around Alderney and off-lying rocks and islands will also be searched from the air.
  • There have been reports of a Whatsapp voice message from Sala, who reportedly said the doomed plane “looked like it was falling apart.”
  • Guernsey Police have reported they are pursuing four possibilities, including the plane landing on water and the passengers making it into the life raft which was on board the plane.
  • A rescuer believes there is “no hope” of Emiliano Sala surviving after his plane disappeared.
  • A Wednesday afternoon update from Guernsey Police confirms the search is ongoing, but that a decision will be made later today as to whether to continue or not.
  • The missing plane is unlikely to have a black box, according to an aviation regulator.
  • Police have now suspended Wednesday’s search and will take a decision whether to continue the operation tomorrow morning.
  • Police resumed the search for Sala on Thursday morning.
  • At 15:15 on Thursday, police called an end to the search operation.

Cardiff City chief executive Ken Choo issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon to express the club’s shock at the news, and he said that he had been left “very distressed” by Sala’s disappearance after last seeing him on Friday.

“We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing,” Choo said in a statement. “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.”