Hopes fade for Cardiff City’s Emiliano Sala as plane search suspended

Cardiff City’s chief executive has said everyone at the club is in “shock” after a plane carrying new record signing Emiliano Sala disappeared over the English Channel.

Tuesday, 22nd January 2019, 6:05 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd January 2019, 6:09 pm
Staff members talk to journalists at the entrance of the FC Nantes training centre Pic: VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

Ken Choo spoke ahead of search and rescue operations being suspended overnight following sunset on Tuesday.

Rescue workers had earlier spotted “floating objects” in the water but were unable to confirm if these were from the aircraft, Guernsey Police said.

The force said search efforts would resume at sunrise but the chances of passenger survival were “slim”.

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The search was launched on Monday night after the Piper PA-46 Malibu light aircraft disappeared from radar en route from Nantes in France to Cardiff, where the Argentinian striker was due to join his new team-mates for training on Tuesday.

Mr Choo said: “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.”

“Our owner, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, and chairman, Mehmet Dalman, are all very distressed about the situation.”

He added: “All of us at Cardiff City FC would like to thank our fans, and the entire footballing family for their support at this difficult time.”

Mr Choo said the Premier League club had called off training on Tuesday morning, adding: “The thoughts of the squad, management staff and the entire club are with Emiliano and the pilot.

“We continue to pray for positive news.”

Sala’s father Horacio told Argentinian news channel C5N he was “desperate” after hearing the plane was missing.

“I was working, I can’t believe it. I am desperate,” he said. “Hopefully there will be good news.”

He added: “I don’t know what could have happened. My family knew nothing, I told them.”

More than 1,000 square miles have been searched by five aircraft and two lifeboats but “no trace” of the plane has been found, Guernsey Police said.

The single-turbine engine aircraft, carrying the footballer and his pilot, left Nantes at 7.15pm for Cardiff and was flying at an altitude of 5,000ft.

As it was passing Guernsey, the pilot “requested descent” but Jersey air traffic control lost contact while it was flying at 2,300ft around 15 miles north of Guernsey.

Rescue teams were scrambled but were unable to find anything on Monday night, with the search resuming at 8am on Tuesday.

Premier League strugglers Cardiff paid about £15 million for the footballer, one of the leading scorers in French Ligue 1.

A photograph posted on his Instagram account on Monday showed him with team-mates from his former club FC Nantes with a caption that included the word “ciao” (bye).

FC Nantes postponed its next Coupe de France match.