Searchers say there isn now “no hope” of finding missing Argentinian soccer star Emiliano Sala alive as the search for his missing plane was again suspended for the night.
Local police say there has been no trace of the aircraft since it lost radar contact off the English Channel island of Guernsey late on Monday, adding that the chances of survival are “unfortunately slim”.
The comments come after an intensive nine-hour search for the 28-year striker and his British pilot, who was identified as 60-year-old father-of-three Dave Ibbotson.
“Sadly, I really don’t think, personally, there is any hope”, Channel Islands Air Search chief officer John Fitzgerald said, adding that “even the most fit person” would only last for a few hours in the frigid water.
An intensive search using multiple aircraft and one lifeboat was suspended on Wednesday after the daylight had faded.
More than 2590 square kilometres of sea had been searched, but “no trace of the missing aircraft had been found”, Guernsey police said.
The missing player sent a voice message to friends and family saying that he thought the small plane he was flying in “was about to crash”, shortly before it disappeared over the English Channel.
On Wednesday, Argentine newspaper Clarin published a voice message that Sala apparently sent to friends and which had been verified by the soccer player’s father, Horacio Sala.
“We’re up in the plane and it seems it’s about to crash,” it said.
“If you have not heard anything from me in an hour and a half, I don’t know if they’re going to send someone to find me, because, you know, they’re not going to be able to.
“Dad. I’m really scared.”
There is a new Sala in town @premierleague 😎 Very happy to sign here @cardiffcityfc !! I know the challenge is big but together we will make it 🙌
Impatient to discover the league & the team #BlueBirds pic.twitter.com/OiNQUpBpiB
— Emiliano Sala (@EmilianoSala1) January 19, 2019
Argentine website Ole.com posted other voice messages that it claimed were sent to a WhatsApp group of Sala’s fellow players and friends.
‘I’m here on a plane that looks like it’s about to fall apart, and I’m going to Cardiff, crazy, tomorrow we already start, and in the afternoon we start training, boys, in my new team,” the message said.
Channel Islands Air Search chief officer John Fitzgerald said the plane appeared to have just vanished.
“We just don’t know how it disappeared at the end of yesterday,” he said.
“After all this time, the weather’s quite cold, the water is very cold out there … I am not expecting anyone to be alive.”
Sala had travelled in the same plane from Cardiff back to France on Sunday and complained about that flight being ‘bumpy’.
British authorities contacted airfields along the coast to check if the plane had made an unplanned landing, but there was no sign it had, Guernsey police said.
Sala joined Premier League strugglers Cardiff City from Nantes last week for a club record fee of about 17 million euros ($27 million). He was due to commence training with his new team on Tuesday (local time).
“We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team,” Cardiff chief executive Ken Choo said.
“We continue to pray for positive news.”