Wreckage from the plane that disappeared while carrying Premier League footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson on board has been found in the English Channel.
The 28-year-old Argentine forward was en route from Nantes in western France with the pilot to make his debut for Cardiff City when the single-engined Piper Malibu disappeared without trace on January 21.
A private search, funded by public donation after a plea from Sala’s family, began on Sunday local time after Channel Island authorities failed to locate the wreckage.
David Mearns, a marine scientist who is directing the private search, said on Twitter: “Wreckage of the plane carrying Emiliano Sala and piloted by David Ibbotson was located early this morning by the FPV MORVEN.
Teams from the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) will now begin the process of recovering the aircraft.
“As agreed with the AAIB they moved the GEO OCEAN III over the position we provided them to visually identify the plane by ROV. #EmilianoSala.”
The families of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson have been notified by Police. The AAIB will be making a statement tomorrow. Tonight our sole thoughts are with the families and friends of Emiliano and David. #EmilianoSalas #NoDejenDeBuscarAEmilianoSala
— David Mearns (@davidlmearns) February 3, 2019
The privately-funded operation on behalf of the Sala family was made possible after a campaign raised more than 260,000 pound ($470,000) to fund it.
“‘This is about the best result we could have hoped for the families,” Mr Mearns told Sky News.
“But tonight they have heard devastating news and in respect of the families I won’t comment any further about what has happened.”
Cardiff signed the footballer for a club record 15 million pound ($27 million) and he was due to start training last month.
The club has paid tribute to Sala since, and won an emotionally-charged Premier League clash with Bournemouth 2-0 on Saturday – its first game at home since the incident
It has been an anxious and heartbreaking time for Sala’s family since his plane disappeared.
An official search operation was called off on January 24 after Guernsey’s harbour master Captain David Barker said the chances of survival after such a long period were “extremely remote”.
A privately funded search began for the missing plane after two seat cushions from the aircraft were found on the French coast.
Rescuers earlier scoured about 1700 square miles (4400 square kilometres) of the channel after the plane went missing, but failed to find a trace of the aircraft.
The plane had been cruising at 5000 feet (1525 metres) when the pilot requested to descend to a lower altitude on passing Guernsey. It then lost radar contact at 2300 feet.