The search for Cardiff City’s new soccer star, Emiliano Sala, has resumed 36 hours after the light aircraft he was flying on disappeared in the English Channel.
Sala was flying from the French city of Nantes to Cardiff for his club debut when the plane lost radar contact off the English Channel island of Guernsey late on Monday.
“We have resumed searching,” Guernsey police said on Wednesday.
“Two planes are taking off and will search a targeted area we believe has the highest likelihood of finding anything, based on review of the tides and weather since it went missing.”
We are searching based on four possibilities:
1. They have landed elsewhere but not made contact.
2. They landed on water, have been picked up by a passing ship but not made contact
3. They landed on water and made it into the life raft we know was on board
— Guernsey Police (@GuernseyPolice) January 23, 2019
4. The aircraft broke up on contact with the water, leaving them in the sea.
Our search area is prioritised on the life raft option.
More updates as information becomes available
— Guernsey Police (@GuernseyPolice) January 23, 2019
Police tweeted that the search was continuing based on four possibilities: The plane landed but not made contact; It landed on water and may have been picked up by a passing ship; The plane’s occupants are in a life raft; and, they have been left in the sea if the plane crashed.
The missing Argentine striker 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.
Sala was one of just two people on board the light aircraft on its way from the French city of Nantes to the Welsh capital, Cardiff, when it lost radar contact, France’s civil aviation authority said on Tuesday (local time).
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.
Rescue aircraft and boats have searched more than 2590 square kilometres of sea for the single-engine Piper Malibu, but “no trace of the missing aircraft had been found”, Guernsey police said on Tuesday.
Authorities have found no sign of those on board.
“If they did land on the water,” Guernsey Police said, “the chances of survival are at this stage, unfortunately, slim.”
"A wonderful character. A fighter."
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 23, 2019
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, 28, 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.”
— Emiliano Sala (@EmilianoSala1) January 21, 2019
Tuesday’s training session was called off.
Sala’s former club also made a statement, saying management and the wider club was staying hopeful.
“The whole FC Nantes family is praying for Emiliano Sala and the other passengers to be found safe and sound,” it said.
On Monday, Sala tweeted a photo of himself bidding farewell to his Nantes teammates, saying: “The last one. Ciao @FCNantes.”
Sala’s father Horacio told Argentine TV channel C5N: “I didn’t know anything because I’m away from home, I’m a truck driver. A friend who saw it on TV told me. I’m in despair.”
Julio Muller, the mayor of Progreso, the small town in the farming province of Santa Fe where Sala grew up, told Clarin: “The town is in shock. The only thing we were talking about was his transfer.”
Daniel Rivero, the president of Sala’s first club, San Martin de Progreso, told radio LT9 he was “hoping for some kind of a miracle”.
Sala scored 12 goals for Nantes this season.
France’s football federation postponed Nantes’s French Cup last-32 game against Entente Sannois-Saint Gratien that was scheduled for Wednesday.