Cape Town - Guernsey harbour master Captain David Barker says that the hopes of finding Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala alive have faded to almost zero as a search for the missing light aircraft continued on Thursday.
The Argentine striker, signed from French club Nantes for a
reported fee of €17 million, was flying to Cardiff aboard the plane that
disappeared from radars around 20 kilometres north of the
island of Guernsey on Monday night.
Barker told the BBC that they were scaling back the search on day three as no lifeboats would be deployed.
Air Search One, our search aircraft, is about to launch,” said Captain Barker.
"He will do a coastal search up around a Alderney, Burhou, down the French coast, including the north coast of Jersey today and back over Sark.
"We're not launching any lifeboats today, nor are we requesting any assets from the UK or France.
"We consider that the hopes of finding someone alive have faded to almost zero now.
"But we are not giving up. We are going to conduct this sweep of the coastline and we are targeting a life raft. We will review our continued search plan as soon as that is complete."
As rescuers in three planes and a helicopter scoured the sea,
Argentine media reported that Sala sent a final message before the plane
disappeared from radar around 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of
Guernsey on Monday night.
"I'm on a plane that looks like it's
going to fall apart, and I'm leaving for Cardiff," the 28-year-old said
in a rambling WhatsApp audio message.
"If in an hour and a half
you have no news from me, I don't know if they will send people to look
for me, because they will not find me, you know... I'm so scared," he
The player's mother, Mercedes, told Argentine television
channel C5N that the plane belonged to Cardiff chairman Mehmet Dalman,
but he disputed the claim.
"I can say to you categorically that the plane had nothing to do with Cardiff City," he said.