We will never give up hope of finding him, says family of missing pilot

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The wife and daughter of the pilot who was flying the plane carrying Emiliano Sala have said they will never give up hope of finding him, as an inquest was opened and adjourned into the footballer’s death.

David Ibbotson is still missing after the plane, which was flying Argentine footballer Sala from Nantes in France to Cardiff, crashed in the English Channel on January 21.

The 28-year-old striker had just signed for Cardiff City from Nantes in a record transfer deal.

Tributes at Cardiff City Stadium for Emiliano Sal
Tributes at Cardiff City Stadium for Emiliano Sala (Aaron Chown/PA)

The hearing, which lasted five minutes and took place at Bournemouth Town Hall in the absence of members of Sala’s family, was adjourned until November.

Senior coroner’s officer Ian Parry confirmed Sala was pronounced dead at Portland port on February 7 and was formally identified by fingerprints.

His full name was given as Emiliano Raul Sala, who was born in October 1990 at Esperanza, Santa Fe, Argentina.

“On Monday January 21 a Malibu aircraft left Nantes airport for Cardiff,” Mr Parry said.

“The aircraft was carrying two persons, the pilot David Ibbotson and passenger Emiliano Raul Sala.

“Air traffic control lost contact with the aircraft during the flight and an extensive search commenced off waters at Guernsey.

“Subsequently the plane was located on the sea bed in international waters.

Missing plane wreckage found
(PA Graphics)

“To date the pilot, Mr Ibbotson, has not been found.

“Police, Air Accidents Investigation Branch and the Civil Aviation Authority are continuing with their inquiries.”

A fundraising campaign to restart the search for Mr Ibbotson has already raised more than £150,000 of a £300,000 target.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, his daughter Danielle said her father would not give up looking for her if she was missing, so she would not give up on him.

“If you’ve got hope then you shouldn’t give up,” she said. “He wouldn’t stop searching for me.”

She added: “We still hope and pray and hope everyone keeps my dad in their prayers.”

A web page raising funds to continue the search for Mr Ibbotson was set up on Friday.

A donation under the name of broadcaster and former footballer Gary Lineker of £1,000 is registered on the page, which he shared with his 7.2 million Twitter followers on Saturday.

A £27,000 donation under the name Elie Lottin, apparently made by France’s World Cup winning footballer Kylian Sanmi Mbappe Lottin, is also listed.

Sala’s body was recovered in a privately funded search, which was launched after the initial search was called off three days after the men and their plane went missing.

Although Mr Ibbotson, 59, of Crowle, Lincolnshire, has not been located, poor weather conditions meant a “difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close”, a spokesman for the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said on Wednesday.

The aircraft remains underwater off the coast of Guernsey in the English Channel.

Plane wreckage
The wreckage of the plane is still underwater (AAIB/PA)

“We are going to adjourn the inquest into the death of Mr Sala,” he said.

“I am aware there are further investigations that are on-going; investigations being conducted by the police, Air Accidents Investigation Branch and by the Civil Aviation Authority.

“I am aware that in relation to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch’s report into their investigations, they are not likely to be concluded for a period of between six and 12 months.

“On that basis I am going to fix a pre-inquest review hearing for November 6 at 10am.”

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