English Premiership

Crash investigators planning 'operation' on Sala's plane

2019-02-05 17:00
Emiliano Sala
Emiliano Sala (AP)

London - British crash investigators told AFP on Tuesday they were planning "an underwater operation" in the next couple of days on the wreckage of a plane carrying Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala in the English Channel.

"There is still an ongoing operation gathering evidence," said a spokesperson for the Air Accident Investigations Branch.

Asked whether an attempt would be made to recover the aircraft and the unidentified body that a remotely operated vehicle found on board, he said only: "An underwater operation will be conducted over the next couple of days".

The shipwreck hunter who found the remains of the plane on Sunday urged the authorities to urgently recover the body.

"Time is of the essence when you're talking about a body, so really it's imperative that they proceed with the recovery of the plane and the body," David Mearns said.

Mearns was hired by Sala's family to find the light aircraft after it disappeared near the British island of Guernsey on January 21, with the 28-year-old footballer and pilot David Ibbotson on board.

He found the wreckage on Sunday, before the AAIB took over the operation. They revealed on Monday that a body had been found at the site.

"Finding it is just the starting point. The AAIB has got to investigate it... The best outcome for the families would be to find the plane and recover both bodies," Mearns said.

"As tragic as the loss is, it's made much, much worse if the body is never recovered or they never get an answer to what happened."

He is back at his home in England, but confirmed that AAIB divers are currently on the site, trying to establish what to do next.

"You have to see whether you can lift the plane without disturbing the body and also making sure that you're picking it all up," he said.

The discovery of two seat cushions on the French coast last week revealed that the plane was broken, Mearns added.

"It's in one area (on the seabed), it's all one mass, but some bits may not be connected. So what you don't want to do is to disturb the body in a way that you lose it," he said.

Sala's family have raised more than 370 000 in an online campaign to pay for the private search, with donations from 4 800 people, including top footballers.

"Had that not happened, I don't think anybody would have searched for the plane," Mearns said.

"We were told by the AAIB that they didn't feel that there was much to be gained... They felt it was going to be more difficult."

In the end, the AAIB chartered a ship to join Mearns on Sunday, and they identified the wreckage.

He said recovery was now "technically possible - the water depth isn't an issue really, and the weather can be managed with the right ship".

"It's a matter of will to do it," he added.

Mearns was keen to praise the efforts by the Guernsey authorities in the days immediately after the plane disappeared. They called off the search only after concluding that no one would be found alive.

Sala was flying from France to join up with his new club, Premier League side Cardiff City, when the Piper PA-46 Malibu dropped off the radar north of Guernsey.

He had just transferred from French team Nantes the previous weekend, in a 17 million move - a record deal for the Welsh team.

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Fixtures
Friday, 22 February 2019
Cardiff City v Watford, Cardiff City Stadium 21:45
West Ham United v Fulham, London Stadium 21:45
Saturday, 23 February 2019
Burnley v Tottenham Hotspur, Turf Moor 14:30
Newcastle United v Huddersfield Town, St. James' Park 17:00
AFC Bournemouth v Wolverhampton Wanderers, Vitality Stadium 17:00
Leicester City v Crystal Palace, King Power Stadium 19:30
Sunday, 24 February 2019
Chelsea v Brighton & Hove Albion, Stamford Bridge 14:00
Arsenal v Southampton, Emirates Stadium 16:05
Manchester United v Liverpool, Old Trafford 16:05
Logs
Team P W PTS
Previous Results

Date Home Team Result Away Team
Vote

Who will claim the Premier League title at the end of the 2018/19 season?

 
 
Men
Women
Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter

Featured

The 2018/19 Absa Premiership season is in full swing. Will Mamelodi Sundowns retain their title? Or can one of Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Wits, SuperSport United - or another team perhaps - snatch glory from the Brazilians? Be sure to visit Sport24 for all the latest news!

Latest blogs
 

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.