The Argentinian Emiliano Sala was about to join the Premier League of Great Britain, but as he headed to the United Kingdom to join Cardiff City, his new club, the plane in which he was traveling rushed and ended the life of the player whose body was found several days later, in a tragedy that left many unresolved questions.
The episode occurred on Jan 21, 2019, after the charter flight that transferred him from Nantes to Cardiff fell into the English Channel when in the middle of the night they crossed an area of storms.
On the aircraft, a Piper PA-46 MalibuOnly Emiliano Sala and the pilot traveled, David ibbotson. The footballer, after four successful seasons in the Nantes French, he was going to join the Cardiff city, a team from the capital of Wales that was still participating in the English First Division that season.
Born in Santa Fe and just 28 years old, Sala had spent his entire career as a professional in soccer in France. The first to sign him was the Girondins de Bordeaux, who first yielded him to Orleans (Third Division) and Niort (Second).
Emiliano Sala with the Nantes shirt, the club where he showed his best version.
In the same Bordeaux he made his debut in Ligue 1, but gave it back to Caen on loan before transferring it to Nantes, where he had his explosion as a scorer.
On January 19, 2019, the Cardiff city announced the incorporation of the Argentine, through whose pass he had agreed with Nantes a payment of 17 million euros, the most expensive transaction of the Wales club. The footballer had agreed to a contract for three and a half years, until June 2022.
The discovery of the wreckage
At 21:23 on January 21, while the Piper malibu It was flying over the English Channel, it disappeared from the radar. The remains of the ship were found 13 days later, February 3 in an operation headed by a boat rented by the footballer’s family and paid for by online donations.
An image of the plane at the bottom of the English Channel, taken by rescuers.
The flight had not been organized by the clubs but by the intermediary of the transfer, Willie Mc Kay, who was also targeted by the conditions under which the charter was hired and the service that the company ended up providing.
The device was found near the island of Guernsey, in a joint operation between the Morven and the Geo Ocean III, the Ministry of Defense vessel leased by the UK Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB), after the discovery of the aircraft seats guided them on the trajectory of the plane crash.
The FPV Morven had left at 3 am on Sunday, February 3, from the port of St. Peter to travel an area of four nautical miles, which had been divided in two with the Geo Ocean III, to patrol and double the possibilities of find the remains.
The Piper Malibu in which Emiliano Sala was traveling on the day of his death.
The eight crew and scientists of the Morven were 24 miles from Guernsey when they saw and heard something on the onboard sonar. They passed over and over the area to make a demarcation and get a closer look. Throughout the day they went through several stages of identification before Mearns was convinced they had found the Piper.
It was at that time that the Morven transferred responsibility for the search to Geo Ocean III, where AAIB officials were in charge of the confirmation and formal identification of the wreckage. They lowered a robotic vehicle to identify the Piper and take photographs.
A case with many unknowns to reveal
A body was found among the wreckage of the aircraft, and four days later it was confirmed that sand it was about Emiliano Sala. It was not until late February that the operation was resumed to try to find the pilot’s body, but the search was short and unsuccessful.
The ship Geo Ocean III, in the port of Weymouth, after having recovered the body of Emiliano Sala.
After just one day of searching, the family decided to terminate the tasks to try to find the body of David Ibbotson, 59 years old and who, under normal conditions, was not the designated pilot to perform that flight.
The aviator who had been hired was David Henderson, a Briton who is being processed by the British Justice with the charges of “negligence and recklessness” for the accident.
Henderson was the charter pilot who had received the request to transfer Sala from Nantes to Cardiff and gave his place to Ibbotson, a Lincolnshire gas operator, with no night flight or instrument experience, which had the fatal accident in the vicinity of the island of Guernsey.
The reason for Henderson’s decision is another of the unknowns in the case. Meanwhile, it is expected that in 2022 the results of an independent investigation will be known to know the conditions of the accident and responsibilities.
Although there are indications of what happened in the aircraft before rushing, there is a cloak of mystery regarding the final moments, when he last came into contact with the aeronautical authorities of Great Britain.
The AAIB’s final report determined that the plane did not have the necessary licenses to operate commercially, and neither did the pilot who was in charge of the aircraft.
According to the report, the loss of control occurred “during a manual flight turn, which was probably started to regain visibility due to weather conditions,” which was “more likely” to happen because the flight “did not it was carried out in accordance with the safety standards applicable to a commercial operation ”.
“The aircraft subsequently broke off in flight while maneuvering at a speed significantly higher than its designed maneuvering speed,” the report added. Furthermore, “the pilot was probably affected by carbon monoxide poisoning,” which gives the indication that there was a fire on the plane.
To all this are added other factors, such as the flight was not carried out in accordance with safety regulations. The pilot operated “visual flight at night in bad weather conditions, despite the fact that he had no training in night flight and lacked recent experience in instrument flight.”
According to the AAIB, Ibbotson had no prior training to fly at night and his SEP license, which allows him to fly a single-engine aircraft, had expired three months before the accident. In addition, the pilot received a payment for that trip, something to which he was not authorized by his license.
It was also not known why Emiliano Sala got on a charter. Cardiff City claimed to have offered him a commercial flight, but eventually agreed to take the small plane hired by Mark Mac Kay, the son of the agent who served as an intermediary between the Welsh club and Nantes.