London - British
crash investigators on Tuesday launched an underwater operation to
recover a body from the wreckage of the plane carrying Argentine
footballer Emiliano Sala in the English Channel.
"We are attempting to recover the body. If we are successful, we will
consider the feasibility of recovering the aircraft wreckage," an Air
Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) spokesperson said in a statement.
The light aircraft carrying the 28-year-old footballer and pilot
David Ibbotson to his new Premier League team Cardiff City disappeared
near the British island of Guernsey on January 21.
The shipwreck hunter hired by Sala's family with the help of funds
donated by football stars such as Lionel Messi found the plane wreckage
The AAIB has since taken over operations. It revealed on Monday that an unidentified body had been found at the site.
But it warned on Tuesday that strong tides "mean we can only use the
remotely operated vehicle (ROV) for limited periods each day".
"Regardless of the results, we will not be making a further statement until the families have been informed," it said.
David Mearns had earlier warned that "time is of the essence" in
an underwater operation like the one being launched by Britain off
France's northern coast.
"As tragic as the loss is, it's made much, much worse if the body is
never recovered or (the family) never get an answer to what happened,"
"Finding it is just the starting point. The AAIB has got to investigate it."
Sala was flying to join up with Cardiff from his old French team Nantes.
His signing was the most expensive in the Welsh club's history and
marked what fans had hoped would be a turning point in its bid to avoid
relegation from England's top division.
"There's no longer any hope," Horacio Sala, Emiliano's father, told
Fox Sports, acknowledging there was no longer any prospect of finding
his son alive.
"We hope the two bodies are inside (the plane). It's over, the only thing I hope now is that they find them."
Mearns said his discovery of two seat cushions on the French coast last week revealed that the plane had broken up.
"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 raised more than €370 000 in an online campaign to pay for the private search.
"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," he said.
The AAIB ended up chartering a ship to join Mearns on Sunday.
He said recovery was now "technically possible - the water depth
isn't an issue really, and the weather can be managed with the right
"It's a matter of will to do it," he added.