Emiliano Sala: Underwater search to begin for missing plane

An underwater search is set to begin for the missing plane carrying Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala, a scientist involved in the operation has said

Funding for a private air and sea rescue mission was secured after the official efforts were brought to an end, with more than 4,000 people having made donations to help surpass the €300,000 (£259,000) target.

Now shipwreck hunting expert David Mearns, who has been assisting the family, has said a survey vessel has been hired to carry out an underwater search this weekendW

“We have sourced and hired a survey vessel equipped with state-of-the-art search equipment, which will be used to conduct an underwater search for the wreckage in the area of the last radar contact.

“The survey vessel is currently being mobilised in Southampton and, subject to weather conditions, will be re-positioned to Guernsey on Thursday or Friday this week.

Surface searches will continue in the meantime, with local fishing boats among those helping to look for any sign of the plane, which had been flying from the French city of Nantes to Cardiff.

The Piper PA-46 Malibu aircraft disappeared from radar near the Channel Islands, with Sala and pilot David Ibbotson the only people on board.

Guernsey harbour master Captain David Barker said the chances of survival were “extremely remote”, but the private operation got under way after more than 800,000 people signed an online petition.

“The family still have some hope, they’re looking at this as a missing person, a missing plane, and until they are satisfied, that’s the mode that we’re in,” he said.

“This is a family that have come from Argentina with this huge shock out of nowhere and (is) struggling with what had happened, with very, very few answers about an unexplained loss.

Speaking earlier this week, Cardiff owner Vincent Tan relayed his own hopes for a positive outcome.

“Those who met Emiliano described a good-natured and humble young man who was eager to impress in the Premier League,” Tan said.

“The response from the football community has been truly touching and we place on record our sincere thanks to those who have sent messages of support.

“We also thank everyone involved with the search and rescue operation, and continue to pray for Emiliano, David Ibbotson and their families.”