COPS searching for missing footballer Emiliano Sala fear they have found debris from his doomed plane in the English Channel – and have called off the day’s search amid ‘slim’ hopes of the ace’s survival.
Sala, 28, who had just signed for Cardiff City, is feared dead after the small private aircraft lost contact at 8.30pm, near the Casquets lighthouse, off Alderney.
Cardiff CEO Ken Choo (right) said Sala was a ‘significant acquisition’ for the club[/caption]
A Guernsey Police spokesman said: “We have found no signs of those on board. If they did land on the water, the chances of survival are at this stage, unfortunately, slim.
“Two planes and a lifeboat are still searching. A decision about an overnight search will be taken shortly
Today it emerged that he told Nantes teammate Nicolas Pallois that the trip to France to say goodbye to his old club was “bumpy and he feared his safety for the return back to the UK”, according to French media.
It comes as the rescue boss searching for the Argentine is “not expecting to find anyone alive” after the plane vanished.
STAR FEARED FOR SAFETY
Air Traffic Control confirmed the Piper Malibu plane was travelling with two passengers from Nantes in Western France to Cardiff when it disappeared.
The plane’s disappearance followed severe weather warnings about snow and ice issued across France.
Speaking this afternoon, Channel Islands Air search chief officer John Fitzgerald said he was “not expecting anyone to be alive. I don’t think the coastguard are either. We just don’t know how it disappeared.”
In a telephone interview with the associated Press, Fitzgerald added that the plane “just completely vanished. There was no radio conversation.”
Cardiff City CEO Ken Choo said the club were “very shocked” by the news and training had been cancelled as the players reacted to the tragedy.
He added: “We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team.
“Our owner, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, and chairman, Mehmet Dalman, are all very distressed about the situation.”
A club spokesman added: “We are awaiting confirmation before we can say anything further. We are very concerned for the safety of Emiliano Sala.”
Sala’s “desperate” family has been speaking to South American media as they wait for information.
The star’s dad, Horatio, told Argentine TV station Channel 5 News: “A friend told me, I did not know anything, I’m in Rosario, I’m desperate, I hope everything goes well.”
He added: “I spoke to Emiliano on Sunday.
“Still nobody from Nantes has communicated with us, we are worried, desperate, this took us all by surprise.
I did not know anything, I’m in Rosario. I’m desperate, I hope everything goes well
Emiliano Sala's dad, Horatio
“I don’t have any information on the journey, the only thing I know is that it was a small plane.
“They are saying that the plane lost control in the channel. I don’t know what could have happened. I am speechless.”
His mum, Mercedes, added: “The plane is from the President of Cardiff City FC, they informed us that the plane had disappeared and that they were looking for it.”
Snaps posted on social media suggest Sala had flown back to France to say goodbye to his old teammates.
He was later driven to the airport by Nantes defender Nicolas Pallois, according to reports.
His Instagram is littered with pictures of him smiling with friends and teammates and posing for touching snaps with his family and mum.
In one happy picture of the two together, he wrote: “Thank you mum”.
Meanwhile, sick trolls have been slammed for posting memes mocking the footballer’s disappearance.
This morning, the French Football Federation confirmed it had postponed Nantes’ cup match tonight as the club waits for news on its former player.
Ex Nantes player Amime Harit posted an emotional tweet with praying and crying emojis as friends and loved ones hope for good news.
SMALL TOWN BOY
Horatio Sala said his son was excited about his big money move to the Premier League.
He explained: “For my son and for all of us, his transfer to Cardiff City was a big thing.
“He was a lad who always fought for what he had. A small town boy, a humble lad.
“I don’t know what could have happened. The rest of our family didn’t know anything. I told them.”
The football world has been rocked by the reports, with stars and fans taking to social media to send their wishes.
Keith Morgan, Chairman of Cardiff Supporters Trust, said: “It’s difficult to absorb.
“Already fans have been getting in touch, the wider football community, to offer their sympathy to Cardiff City.
“I think fans realise what’s important and things like this put everything into perspective. Football is important in all our lives but not more than a person’s life. It’s very sad.”
Gary Lineker tweeted saying: “Terribly worrying news that Cardiff City FC’s new signing, Emiliano Sala was on board the small plane that has gone missing. Hopefully, somehow, they’ll be found and safe.”
A coastguard rescue helicopter and crews from Alderney and Guernsey RNLI have joined the search for the Argentinian star.
The first effort had been called off at 2am “due to strengthening winds, worsening sea conditions and reducing visibility”.
Guernsey Police said the aircraft left Nantes at 7.15pm for Cardiff and was flying at 2,000 feet before it dropped off radar.
A spokesman added that “no trace” had been found as the search for the plane continues.
Christian Martin, an Argentine journalist said to be friends with the Sala, said the footballer was not answering calls to his phone.
He tweeted: “I know @EmilianoSala1. I call him and he doesn’t answer his phone.
I know Emiliano Sala. I call him and he doesn’t answer his phone
Journalist, Christian Martin
“Air Control of the island of Guernsey confirms the pilot requested emergency landing at 20:30h Local.”
Mr Fitzgerald said the plane could have glided for around five or six miles without a working engine.
He added: “I am sure something will be found eventually.
“The plane was flying at 2,000ft when it dropped off the radar so it could have flown for about five or six miles before touching down.
“But whether it was a controlled ditching or if it dived in, we just do not know.
“If it was a controlled ditching, you would expect to find a life-raft but if it was uncontrolled I expect an oil slick and wreckage may be found.”
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Search bosses said the disappearance was not in the UK search and rescue area but it had sent two helicopters to help.
“HM Coastguard are currently assisting Guernsey Coastguard with a search for a light aircraft off Alderney in the Channel Islands,” a spokeswoman said.
“HM Coastguard helicopters from Solent and Newquay have been helping to search overnight with nothing found.”
Lifeboats were searching the water north of Alderney in the Channel Islands today[/caption]
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