English Premiership

Rescuers 'fearing worst' over plane carrying football star

2019-01-22 22:35
Emiliano Sala
Emiliano Sala

London - Premier League club Cardiff City's record new signing, Emiliano Sala, is missing presumed dead after a light aircraft he was travelling in disappeared over the English Channel, with a search to find the plane being called off on Tuesday.

The Argentine striker, signed on Saturday from French club Nantes was flying to Cardiff aboard the plane that disappeared from radars around 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of the island of Guernsey on Monday night.

The search continued throughout Tuesday before being suspended for the night, with police on the British island warning that survival chances were "slim" if the aircraft landed on water.

A 15-hour search covering a 1,155 square-mile (3,000 square-kilometre) area in the Channel spotted "a number of floating objects in the water", Guernsey police added.

"We have found no signs of those on board. If they did land on the water, the chances of survival are at this stage, unfortunately, slim."

French civil aviation authorities had confirmed that 28-year-old Sala "was on board the plane". It is thought there was one other passenger on the aircraft.

Police on Guernsey, which sits just off the north coast of France, said the pilot had requested to lower his altitude shortly before air traffic control in neighbouring Jersey lost contact with the plane. 

One of the rescuers searching for the missing plane earlier admitted they were "fearing the worst".

"Sadly we are fearing the worst...the sea temperature is so cold at the moment," John Fitzgerald, Chief Officer of Channel Islands Air Search, told AFP.

The player's mother, Mercedes, claimed in an interview with Argentine television channel C5N that the plane belonged to the Cardiff chairman, Mehmet Dalman.

"The last time I spoke to Emi was before take-off and he was very happy in the best time of his career," she added.

Sala, who had been at Nantes since 2015 and had scored 13 goals in all competitions this season, had signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with relegation-threatened Cardiff subject to receiving international clearance.

"We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing. We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team," the Premier League club's executive director Ken Choo said in a statement.

"We continue to pray for positive news."

Cardiff called off a training session planned for Tuesday morning, and stunned supporters gathered outside the club's ground to lay flowers and scarves.

With his former teammates in shock, Nantes had their French Cup tie against third-tier side Entente Sannois Saint-Gratien postponed from Wednesday until Sunday.

Meanwhile, hundreds of fans of his former team gathered for a vigil in the western French city on Tuesday evening, placing flowers, scarves and flags on the water fountain and chanting the striker's name at Place Royale.

"I still have hope, he is a fighter," said Nantes president Waldemar Kita in a tweet published by the Ligue 1 club.

When he put pen to paper at relegation-threatened Cardiff on Saturday, Sala, who also has Italian nationality, said in a statement: "I'm very happy to be here. It gives me great pleasure and I can't wait to start training, meet my new team-mates and get down to work.

"For me it feels special (to be the club's record signing). I have come here wanting to work and to help my team-mates and the club."

Sala's last post on Instagram showed him surrounded by players from Nantes. "La ultima ciao (the last goodbye)," he wrote.

The accident, if confirmed, comes only three months after Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the Thai billionaire owner of Leicester City, died in a helicopter crash that shocked the club and supporters around the world.

Sala began his footballing career at French club Bordeaux, who he joined in 2010, and had loan spells at other French clubs including Orleans, Niort and Caen.

He joined Nantes in 2015 and had scored 42 Ligue 1 goals in three and a half seasons at the Stade de la Beaujoire.

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Fixtures
Saturday, 18 January 2020
Norwich City v AFC Bournemouth, Carrow Road 17:00
Arsenal v Sheffield United, Emirates Stadium 17:00
Manchester City v Crystal Palace, Etihad Stadium 17:00
West Ham United v Everton, London Stadium 17:00
Southampton v Wolverhampton Wanderers, St. Mary's Stadium 17:00
Brighton & Hove Albion v Aston Villa, The American Express Community Stadium 17:00
Newcastle United v Chelsea, St. James' Park 19:30
Sunday, 19 January 2020
Burnley v Leicester City, Turf Moor 16:00
Liverpool v Manchester United, Anfield 18:30
Tuesday, 21 January 2020
Sheffield United v Manchester City, Bramall Lane 21:30
Everton v Newcastle United, Goodison Park 21:30
Crystal Palace v Southampton, Selhurst Park 21:30
Aston Villa v Watford, Villa Park 21:30
AFC Bournemouth v Brighton & Hove Albion, Vitality Stadium 21:30
Chelsea v Arsenal, Stamford Bridge 22:15
Logs
Team P W PTS
Previous Results

Date Home Team Result Away Team
Vote

And the 2019/20 English Premiership champions will be ... ?

 
 
Men
Women
Love 2 Meet
English Premiership flutter

Take Sport24's "expert" tips at your peril...

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.