Marine specialists recover Emiliano Sala’s body from wreckage

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The body recovered from the plane wreckage on the sea bed of the English Channel has been identified as Emiliano Sala.

Sala, 28, and pilot David Ibbotson have been missing since the plane they were flying in lost contact with Air Traffic Control on Monday, January 21.

The Piper Malibu aircraft was found on the seabed of the English Channel on Sunday morning – and a body was recovered from the wreckage on this week.

Dorset Police said the families of the Cardiff City striker and Ibbotson have been informed of the development and will “continue to be supported by specially-trained family liaison officers”.

They will continue to support the coroner’s investigation into the circumstances of the crash.

Cardiff City offered their “most heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family of Emiliano”.

“He and David will forever remain in our thoughts,” a spokesman added.

The formal identification comes after remotely operated vehicles in “challenging conditions” were used to recover the body from the water “in as dignified a way as possible”, according to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

Poor weather conditions stopped efforts to recover the aircraft, which remains 67m (220ft) under water.

An AAIB spokesman said bad weather was forecast “for the foreseeable future and so the difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close”.

Fans paid tribute to Sala at a shrine outside the Stade de la Beaujoire before Nantes’ game with Saint-Etienne on January 30

The investigators will publish their interim report within a month and footage captured of the wreckage is expected to provide “valuable evidence”, it added.

The plane was discovered on Sunday by marine recovery specialists who were hired thanks to a crowd funding appeal launched after the official search was called off.

Argentine striker Sala’s transfer to Cardiff from Nantes had been announced just two days before the plane disappeared as it carried him back to the Welsh capital.

Sky sources say Nantes have now started legal action against Cardiff, asking for the first payment of the transfer fee, which is understood to be more than £5m.

Sala joined Nantes in 2015 and was a regular goal scorer for the French club Cardiff have not yet paid any of the fee – a record for the club – for the Argentinian striker and privately believe questions first need answering about the ownership of the Piper Malibu aircraft and other issues.

The plane had requested to descend before it lost contact with Jersey air traffic control.

An official search operation was called off on January 24 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.

Mearns – known as the “Shipwreck Hunter” – and his team located the aircraft within two hours of commencing their search.

World football governing body FIFA issued a statement saying “the whole football community are deeply saddened about the death of Emiliano Sala”.

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