Families await identification of body taken from Sala aircraft
Cardiff City footballer and pilot David Ibbotson were on board plane that went down in English Channel
The Geo Ocean III transporting a body recovered from the wreckage of an aircraft that was carrying footballer Emiliano Sala and the pilot, David Ibbotson, docked in Weymouth harbour on Thursday. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
Investigators removed the body from the Piper Malibu N264DB on Wednesday, and have ended their attempts to recover the aircraft wreckage because of poor weather.
The body was taken to Portland, Dorset, by the Geo Ocean III ship, and taken on a stretcher to an ambulance, before being transferred to the coroner.
The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said the families of both men had been kept informed of progress, and identification of the body was a matter for the police and coroner for Dorset.
A statement issued by the coroner and Dorset police said the body was taken to Portland Port as it was the nearest part of the British mainland to where the plane was located.
“The coroner will investigate the circumstances of this death supported by Dorset Police. A post-mortem examination will be held in due course,” the statement said.
“While formal identification is yet to take place, the families of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson have been updated and will continue to be supported by specially-trained family liaison officers, during this difficult time.”
The AAIB said it had decided to attempt recovery operations after using a remotely operated vessel (ROV) to examine the accident site off the coast of Guernsey. “In challenging conditions, the AAIB and its specialist contractors successfully recovered the body previously seen amidst the wreckage,” it said.
“The operation was carried out in as dignified a way as possible and the families were kept informed of progress. Unfortunately, attempts to recover the aircraft wreckage were unsuccessful before poor weather conditions forced us to return the ROV to the ship.
“The weather forecast is poor for the foreseeable future and so the difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close.”
The AAIB added: “Although it was not possible to recover the aircraft, the extensive video record captured by the ROV is expected to provide valuable evidence for our safety investigation.”
The aircraft remains 67m under water, 34km off the coast of Guernsey in the English Channel.
The remains of the aircraft were discovered on Sunday evening. It had disappeared on January 21st as it travelled from Nantes in France to Cardiff. The AAIB said previously that the work of the ROVs had been hampered by the difficult tidal conditions around the Channel Islands.
The aircraft’s pilot had requested to descend before it lost contact with Jersey air traffic control.
An official search operation was called off on January 24th after Guernsey’s harbour master David Barker said the chances of survival following such a long period were “extremely remote”.
The remains of the aircraft were tracked down by a team co-ordinated by ocean scientist David Mearns, who has located some of the most elusive wrecks in the world.
Mr Mearns and his team located the aircraft within two hours of starting their search. He said the discovery had been so quick because the team had been looking for a static object rather than searching for survivors in a dynamic environment.
“No-one should walk away with the impression that the Coastguard and also the Channel Islands air search did anything other than a professional job,” he said.
The AAIB said it expected to publish an interim report within the month.
Cardiff had signed Sala, a 28-year-old Argentinian striker, for a club record £15 million (€17.1 million).
It has emerged that Nantes have demanded payment from Cardiff for the player’s transfer. It is understood Cardiff received a letter from Nantes on Tuesday, in which the French Ligue 1 club threatened to take legal action if the first scheduled payment of the fee is not made within 10 days.
It is believed Cardiff have been left surprised by the demand, considering the circumstances and the timing, and would rather the investigation into the tragedy be completed first. – PA