Body visible in wreckage of plane carrying football player
LONDON — One body is visible in the seabed wreckage of a plane that went missing carrying Argentine football player Emiliano Sala and his pilot two weeks ago over the English Channel.
Britain’s Air Accident Investigation Branch did not say on Monday if the underwater camera identified Sala or pilot David Ibbotson, the only two people on board the small aircraft that disappeared from radar over the English Channel on Jan. 21 as it flew from the French city of Nantes to Cardiff, Wales.
Wreckage from the plane was located on Sunday after Sala’s family raised funds for a private search by American-born shipwreck-hunting specialist David Mearns because authorities called off the official search.
Although the seabed search on Sunday was conducted in conjunction with British air accident investigators, they have not said if they plan to raise the wreckage to the surface.
“Let’s hope they can rescue it as soon as possible to find out what happened and have some sort of certainty,” Horacio Sala, the footballer’s father, told The Associated Press outside the family’s home in Progreso, about 300 miles (500 kilometers) northwest of Buenos Aires.
“I feel very empty. For a father to lose a son, is not something that you expect.”
The 28-year-old Sala was preparing to start a new career in the English Premier League at Cardiff after the striker was sold by French topflight club Nantes.
An underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) surveyed the seabed and confirmed an object was the missing Piper Malibu aircraft, with the registration N264DB visible in a picture of the fuselage released on Monday.
“It’s imperative that the plane is recovered, and now even more so now we know someone is down there,” Mearns said.
Recovering the body without raising the wreckage is complex, according to Ross Taylor of A-to-Sea Solutions, whose survey ship was used in the search.
“ROVs are sometimes able to grab on to items, but whether that would happen I don’t know,” Taylor said. “Divers can also get down to that depth but it’s a much bigger operation. In 25 meters to 30 meters of water, it would be a lot easier, but in 70 meters, it would be a much bigger operation.”
Investigators plan to release an interim report into the accident this month. Parts of the plane were first believed to have been discovered last week when two seat cushions were found on the French coast.
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