Tue. Aug 20th, 2019

Missing Cardiff player Emiliano Sala’ sent message from the plane

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The search for a missing aircraft that was carrying Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala has resumed.

The Argentine striker, 28, was one of two people on board the plane which lost contact off Alderney in the Channel Islands on Monday night.

Sala reportedly sent a WhatsApp voice message to family, saying he was “really scared”.

Media in Argentina reported that he said: “I’m on a plane that looks like it’s going to fall apart.”

Five aircraft and two lifeboats scoured more than 1,000 sq miles for traces of the Piper Malibu plane on Tuesday with two planes continuing the search on Wednesday.

But John Fitzgerald, chief officer of Channel Islands Air Search, said: “Sadly, I really don’t think, personally, there is any hope.

“I think even the most fit person if they are in the water would not last longer more than a very few hours.

“At this time of year the conditions out there are pretty horrendous if you are actually in the water.”

Guernsey Police tweeted that it was working on four possibilities, including that the “aircraft broke up on contact with the water, leaving them in the sea” and they “landed on water and made it into the life raft we know was on board”.

“Our search area is prioritised on the life raft option,” it said.

Cardiff City chairman Mehmet Dalman said there were no plans to rearrange the Bluebirds’ next Premier League match against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on 29 January.

Sala was heading to the Welsh capital after signing for the Bluebirds from French club Nantes in a £15m deal.

Mr Dalman said players and fans were in a “state of shock”.

“We are still praying,” he said, adding the club had received messages of support from around the world.

The “family of football has a way of coming together at times of tragedy,” he told BBC Radio Wales’ Good Morning Wales.

He also confirmed the club had not booked the plane and Sala had “made his own arrangements”.

“We will not leave a single stone unturned until we have all the facts,” added Mr Dalman.

Nantes fans
Image captionNantes fans gathered in the city to pay tribute to their former striker

Air and sea crews from the Channel Islands, France and the UK took part in a 15-hour search on Tuesday, but found no trace of the aircraft or its occupants.

Guernsey Police was not able to confirm if floating objects seen belonged to the aircraft and warned that chances of passenger survival were “slim”.

Sala’s father Horacio told Argentine media on Tuesday: “The hours go by and it makes me think of the worst.

“I just want them to find him. The last thing they said is that the communication ended when they crossed the river [English Channel].”

Overnight, football fans in Nantes laid flowers at a fountain as a tribute to Sala and the plane’s pilot with floral tributes also left at Cardiff City.

After joining in 2015, Sala had scored 48 goals for the Ligue 1 side.

Map showing location of Alderney and lighthouse
Image captionEmiliano Sala was onboard a plane bound for Cardiff from Nantes when it disappeared from radar

French sports newspaper L’Equipe carried the news of Sala’s plight on its front page on Wednesday with the headline: “The disappearance of a warrior”.

It wrote: “In Nantes, the wait has been unbearable for the supporters of a forward loved for his battling qualities.”

The single-turbine engine plane left Nantes, in north-west France, at 19:15 on Monday and had been flying at 5,000ft when it contacted Jersey air traffic control requesting descent.

It lost contact while at 2,300ft and disappeared off radar near the Casquets lighthouse, infamous among mariners as the site of many shipwrecks, eight miles (13km) north-west of Alderney/BBC.

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