Premier League club Cardiff City’s record new signing, Argentine striker Emiliano Sala, is missing presumed dead after a light aircraft he was travelling in disappeared over the English Channel. Sala, signed on Saturday from French club Nantes for a reported fee of 17 million euros ($19.3 million), was flying to Cardiff aboard a small plane that disappeared from radars around 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Guernsey on Monday night.
French civil aviation authorities confirmed that 28-year-old Sala “was on board the plane”. It is thought there was one other passenger on the aircraft. A statement from police on Guernsey, a British island just off the 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.
The search for the missing plane carrying Cardiff City’s new signing Emiliano Sala and his pilot Dave Ibbotson has been called off with authorities saying the chances of survival are ‘extremely remote’.
The 28-year-old striker had spent the previous hours saying farewell to teammates in the French city after Cardiff signed the Argentinian for a club-record fee.
After a search was called off on Monday because of high winds, two helicopters, two planes and a lifeboat joined renewed efforts on Tuesday morning to find the single-propeller plane.
“So far over 1,000 square miles have been searched by a total of five aircraft and two lifeboats,” Guernsey police said at 1145 GMT.
“There has been no trace of the aircraft. The search is continuing.”
One of the rescuers searching for the missing plane earlier admitted they were “fearing the worst”, thoughts echoed by Sala’s father Horacio.
“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.
A tearful Horacio Sala told the press in Progreso, where the player’s family lives, that as “the hours go by and I don’t know anything, it makes me fear the worst”.
“I don’t know anything. Nobody spoke to me, not a call from the embassy, the club, nobody,” he said. “All I want is for you to find him.”
The player’s mother, Mercedes, claimed in an interview with Argentine television channel C5N that the plane belonged to the Cardiff chairman, Mehmet Dalman.