Emiliano Sala may be alive aboard plane’s life raft, Report

Emiliano Sala may be alive aboard plane's life raft, Report
Emiliano Sala may be alive aboard plane's life raft, Report

Rescuers searching for the missing footballer Emiliano Sala are basing the operation on the premise that he may have made it into a life raft after the plane he was in went missing over the English Channel.

Guernsey police spelled out on Wednesday morning they were working on four possibilities:

They [Sala and the pilot] have landed elsewhere but not made contact.
They landed on water, have been picked up by a passing ship but not made contact.
They landed on water and made it into the life raft we know was on board.
The aircraft broke up on contact with the water, leaving them in the sea.
The police added: “Our search area is prioritised on the life raft option. More updates as information becomes available.”

Officers have made it clear that if the fourth option – that the footballer and pilot ended up in the water – is correct, chances of survival are slim.

A spokesperson for Guernsey police said at 11.30am: “There are currently three planes and one helicopter in the air. We are also reviewing satellite imagery and mobile phone data to see if they can be of any assistance in the search. So far today nothing spotted can be attributed to the missing plane.”

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The aircraft, carrying Sala and the pilot, disappeared off Alderney in the Channel Islands on Monday night.

Sala reportedly sent a voicemail message to his father saying he was frightened the plane was about to break up.

He was flying to Wales from the French city of Nantes after signing for Cardiff City for a club record fee of £13m.

In a transcript of the call, quoted by the Mirror, he said: “I’m here on a plane that looks like it’s about to fall apart, and I’m going to Cardiff … If in an hour and a half you have no news from me, I don’t know if they are going to send someone to look for me because they cannot find me, but you know … Dad, how scared am I!”

The search and rescue operation – which included help from the Channel Islands, UK and France – was suspended for the day at 5pm on Tuesday.

The chances of finding Sala alive were “slim” if the plane landed on water, Guernsey police said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.

According to Guernsey police, the Piper PA-46 Malibu, a single-turbine engine aircraft, departed Nantes at 7.15pm for the Welsh capital and was flying at an altitude of 5,000ft (1,500 metres).

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On passing Guernsey it “requested descent”, but Jersey air traffic control (ATC) lost contact with the plane while it was flying at 2,300ft.

After a 15-hour search from rescue teams, which covered an area of 1,155 sq miles, Guernsey police said “a number of floating objects” were seen in the water, but they were “unable to confirm whether any of these are from the missing aircraft”.

Earlier on Tuesday, Cardiff’s executive director, Ken Choo, expressed his shock and distress at the news.

Sala, 28, was on his way back to Wales after saying goodbye to his Nantes teammates on Monday night. Choo described Sala as a “great person” and said he had been “so happy” to sign for Cardiff.

Cardiff City’s chairman, Mehmet Dalman, told BBC Radio Wales the plane was not booked by the club.

Dalman said: “We spoke to the player and asked him if he wanted us to make arrangements for his flight which, quite frankly, would have been commercial. He declined and made his own arrangements.

“I can’t tell you who arranged the flight because I don’t know at this stage – but it certainly wasn’t Cardiff City.”

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He said Cardiff manager, Neil Warnock, was “in a state of shock”. He said: “Neil is human and he’s affected as much as we all are.

“We need to get on and do the right things but at the moment there’s a vacuum of information – it’s very unsettling.

“We’re still praying, we still have prayers and we’ve got to be doing that, we’ve got to make sure.

“The reaction we’ve had and the reaction that I’ve seen from the football world and outside the football world has been really overwhelming.

“I even had a text message from a prime minister of a country to wish us well. So the support we’re getting from the community, the football community, has been really overwhelming.

“Cardiff City will be involved with the investigation. We won’t leave a single stone unturned until we have all the facts.”

Dalman added: “It’s a tragedy that I have never faced before. There was so much optimism in there and having a young man who had his career ahead of him go missing like that is a shock.

“It has affected the club enormously. Our hearts go out to his family, especially those very far away. It’s a distressing time. We feel very saddened by it.”