Madrid, Jan 30 (IANS) Authorities in the United Kingdom on Wednesday said two seat cushions discovered on a beach in northern France likely came from a small aircraft that went missing over the English Channel with Cardiff City FC’s newly-signed striker Emiliano Sala on board.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch said its French counterpart had on Monday discovered the debris on a beach near Surtainville, which is located on the Cotentin Peninsula, directly east of the English Channel island of Guernsey, reports Efe news.
“From a preliminary examination we have concluded that it is likely that the cushions are from the missing aircraft,” a statement from the AIIB said.
Sala and the pilot of the aircraft, David Ibbotson, have been missing since it disappeared from radar screens some 24 kilometres (15 miles) north of Guernsey at 8.23 p.m. on January 23 as it made its way from the French city of Nantes, where the 28-year-old Argentine forward had said farewell to his former teammates, to Cardiff, in South Wales, in order to begin the next stage of his career at the English Premier League (EPL) side.
The AAIB said it had narrowed its principal search area down to four square nautical miles and had commissioned an underwater survey in a bid to locate the craft in cooperation with the UK defence ministry’s salvage and marine operations unit.
“Due to the weather and sea conditions, we currently expect our underwater seabed search to start at the end of this weekend and to take up to three days,” the branch said.
The department said it would also work closely with a privately funded search operation being conducted in the same area.
Sala’s family launched the private search for the footballer and the pilot with the help of crowdfunding page gofundme.
Well-known figures in the world of football championed the cause and contributed to the fund, which quickly surpassed its 300,000-euro ($340,000) target.
Donors included France and Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, his teammate Adrien Rabiot and fellow Argentine and Manchester City star Sergio Agüero.
Tributes were paid to the missing forward during Cardiff City’s clash at Arsenal late Tuesday.
Sala’s name was included on Cardiff’s teamsheet, although his shirt number was replaced by the image of a daffodil, the Welsh national flower.
Cardiff’s technical team and many of the travelling fans also donned the yellow flower as a show of respect.
On Monday, Cardiff head coach Neil Warnock said it had been the hardest week in his 40 years in football management.
Argentine media obtained a WhatsApp voice recording apparently sent by the missing striker to his family while in the plane in which he suggested it was unsafe.
“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,” he said in a laid back tone.
Rescue teams have all but ruled out chances of finding Sala and Ibbotson alive.