Investigators who have been carrying out underwater searches have said they have spotted a body inside a part of the plane wreckage that was carrying Cardiff City new player, Emiliano Sala.
The UK’s Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) said it was considering its next steps in consultation with the families of Sala and the pilot, David Ibbotson.
In a statement on Monday, the AAIB said:
“Having identified a priority search area last week, the AAIB agreed a search strategy with Blue Water Recoveries Ltd [the private company working with the family] to maximise the chance of locating the aircraft wreckage.
“The AAIB commissioned specialist vessel Geo Ocean III, and Blue Water Recoveries Ltd commissioned FPV Morven and the search area was divided between the vessels. Both vessels began their search on the morning of Sunday 3 February.
“Early in the search, the Morven identified an object of interest on the seabed using its side-scan sonar equipment. It cleared the immediate area for the Geo Ocean III to use its underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to survey the area of the seabed in which the object was located. Based on analysis of ROV video footage, the AAIB investigators onboard the vessel concluded that the object is wreckage from the missing Piper Malibu aircraft, registration N264DB.
“The ROV carried out a further search of the area overnight, but did not identify any additional pieces of wreckage.
“Tragically, in video footage from the ROV, one occupant is visible amidst the wreckage. The AAIB is now considering the next steps, in consultation with the families of the pilot and passenger, and the police.
“The image shows the rear left side of the fuselage including part of the aircraft registration. We intend to publish an interim report within one month of the accident occurring.”
The investigators who found the debris also revealed that the plane was found intact and that it was possible for Sala’s body and that of the pilot, are among the debris.
The plane was found in the English Channel north of Guernsey using solar equipment.
On how they located the wreckage David Mearns, the captain of the search boat hired by Sala’s Argentinian family, who found the plane said:
“We located the wreckage of the plane on the seabed at a depth of about 63 metres very shortly after we started searching,
“After that we called in the larger vessel, the GEO Ocean III – that’s the one that’s been contracted by the AAIB. They dove with their remotely operated vehicle, a submersible with cameras and lights and confirmed that it was the plane. They saw the registration number.”
There is also an investigation on what caused the crash: “That’s a possibility and they’ll be planning for that. There’s a number of things the AAIB have to consider, but their main role is to conduct their investigation on what caused this crash.”
Mearns also said Sala’s family want to plane to be brought to the surface: “I was in touch with the family of Emiliano Sala last night, by text and through Emiliano’s agent, and the family would desperately like the plane to be recovered.”
He added: “Now they feel it is the responsibility of the government to take the next step. That was clear in my meetings with the AAIB when we were coordinating our steps.”