Footballer Emiliano Sala’s family arrive in Guernsey and ‘still have some hope’

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The family of Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala are said to still have some hope almost a week after the plane he was in went missing over the English Channel.

Relatives and friends of the Argentinian striker arrived in Guernsey on Sunday.

David Mearns, who was said to be speaking on behalf of the family, said they wanted to be near where the plane was last located and to have some of their questions answered.

He told reporters: “The family still have some hope, they’re looking at this as a missing person, a missing plane, and until they are satisfied, that’s the mode that we’re in.”

Swansea City v Gillingham – FA Cup – Fourth Round – Liberty Stadium
A tribute to Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala (Simon Galloway/PA)

He said at some point in the future there could be “more investigative technical searches underwater”.

The Piper PA-46 Malibu in which Sala and pilot David Ibbotson were travelling disappeared off the radar on Monday and an official search operation was called off on Thursday.

Pleas for the search to resume have come from the 28-year-old player’s family, Argentinian football stars Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona and Sergio Aguero, and the country’s president Mauricio Macri.

Donations from footballers including Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan have helped a GoFundMe page raising money for a private search surpass the 300,000 euro (£259,000) target.

An update on the site when the target was reached said Sala’s family wanted to thank people for their donations.

More than 80,000 people have signed an online petition demanding the search for the missing aircraft continues.

Guernsey’s harbour master Captain David Barker said last week that the decision to stop actively searching had been a “difficult” one, but the chances of survival after such a long period are “extremely remote”.

Emiliano Sala missing plane
A card offering thoughts and prayers left outside Cardiff City Football Club (Ben Birchall/PA)

Three planes and five helicopters racked up 80 hours’ combined flying time looking for the plane, working alongside two lifeboats and other passing ships.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) have opened a probe and their investigations will include whether the pilot had the correct licence.

Mr Ibbotson, 59, of Crowle, Lincolnshire, held a private pilot’s licence and passed a medical exam as recently as November, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.

The Civil Aviation Authority said the light aircraft was registered in the US, so fell under American regulations.

US law states private pilots cannot make a profit by carrying passengers.

The flight left Nantes in France for Cardiff at 7.15pm on Monday, and after requesting to descend, lost contact with Jersey air traffic control over the English Channel.

Football agent Willie McKay arranged for the flight to take Sala to Cardiff but said he had no involvement in selecting the plane or pilot.

Cardiff City had signed Sala for a club record £15 million to bolster their attack and he was due to start training on Tuesday.

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