At exactly 20.23 on the 21st January 2019 Guernsey Coastguard received an alert from the island’s ATC that a light aircraft had disappeared off their radar 15 miles north of Guernsey.
The terrible report has been followed up by Welsh football club Cardiff City which issued a statement saying they have ‘genuine concerns’ over the safety of their new record signing, Emiliano Sala.
From mid-morning on the 22nd, two helicopters, two planes and one lifeboat were reportedly searching for any sign of the missing plane.
It is thought to be a Piper Malibu P-46T, which is a single engined turbo-propellor driven aircraft which had reportedly taken off from Nantes in France and was flying to Cardiff in Wales.
Two people were on board according to French officials, Sala and the pilot.
A search model has been created based on the likely ditching location and an intense search is now underway.
The weather conditions after the disappearance worsened rapidly, but it is believed the aircraft was flying at 5000 feet and following VFR rules. After passing Guernsey the pilot reportedly asked ATC for permission to descend, then contact was lost as it flew around 2300 feet.
That is low flying in anyone’s book. What was a multimillion dollar sportsperson doing in a plane flying so low?
French journalists have confirmed that Sala was seen walking through border control in Nantes and it is believed he was on board the Malibu. Some hacks have described the aircraft as a private jet, but it isn’t. It’s a turboprop.
Cardiff City, known as the Blues, unveiled their new fifteen million euro Argentinian player only last week, and he had returned to France after Saturday’s announcement with a view to flying back to Cardiff last night.
Other pilots flying a similar route report some icing around 3000 – 5000 feet and wind shear between 2000 feet and 2500 feet. However it was not deemed dangerous. Clouds were reported at 5000 – 6000 feet, well below the level the Malibu was believed to be operating.
The search continues.
UPDATE: Tuesday 5 February
A body has been spotted in the wreckage of a plane carrying Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala which was discovered in the English Channel after a short search.
The Piper Malibu N264DB disappeared on 21 January en route between Nantes in France to Cardiff in Wales with the Argentine striker on board.
The only other person aboard the Piper was the pilot David Ibbotson.
Marine Scientist David Mearns assisted the Sala family and said the aircraft had been located off Guernsey on Sunday.
On Sunday February 3rd 2019, Mearns posted tweets including one which said “The families of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson have been notified by police.”
He was referring to the discovery of a substantial portion of the plane wreckage. A submersible UAV craft was sent to inspect the wreckage and afterwards officials said that a body had been seen in footage.
But they would not be drawn into any further comment.
Cardiff City football had signed Sala for a record of £15m and he was due to start training at the end of January.