The plane carrying footballer Emiliano Sala and his pilot has been found following a sonar search – with both occupants missing and presumed dead.
The specialist sea bed search for the missing plane began off the coast of Guernsey today and located the wreckage this morning on the seabed of the English Channel.
Families of both men have been informed of the discovery.
Both the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) Geo Ocean III vessel and a private boat, which includes a side-scan sonar, were used to try and find the aircraft.
It was located after radar showed that one vessel looking for the wreckage started returning to Guernsey while the other AAIB boat stayed at the scene.
Sky News reported that the vessel that made the discovery was lead by marine scientist David Mearns.
The specialist FPV Morven ship, pictured in Guernsey, was being used in a privately funded search for the plane of missing footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson
Emiliano Sala (pictured) has been missing since after his plane went down over the English Channel on January 21
Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson disappeared when their plane vanished as it passed near Alderney on 21 January during a flight from Nantes to Cardiff.
The AAIB said its search was expected to last three days, while the private search will continue ‘until the plane is located’, reported the BBC.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) Geo Ocean III vessel
A four mile square area, based on the flight path before the plane lost contact, will be covered which is about 24 nautical miles north of Guernsey.
The official search after the plane’s disappearance was called off after three days as officials didn’t believe there was much chance of anyone having survived.
An online petition was then started which raised more than £300,000 to put on a privately-funded search using a specialist survey vessel.
More than 3,500 people had responded to the appeal for funds and the target was broken with the help of a £26,000 donation from French World Cup winner Kylin Mbappe.
The boat, operated by global marine cable installation firm A-2-Sea, is equipped with the latest technology.
It includes a multi-beam echosounder and side-scan sonar, which can detect anomalies on the seabed.
The Piper Malibu carrying Sala from Nantes to Cardiff vanished over Alderney on January 21 and is feared to have plunged into one of the Channel’s most perilous areas, known as Hurd’s Deep
Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson (pictured) disappeared when their plane vanished as it passed near Alderney on 21 January
Marine scientist David Mearns, 60, will lead the private search in the four mile square area
David Mearns, who claims to have found 24 major shipwrecks, will lead the group during the search.
He said that the boat, called Morven, was brought from Southampton to Guernsey six hours earlier than scheduled to take advantage of a break in the weather.
Mr Mearns said both vessels would divide the search area looking for ‘wreckage’ and a ‘debris field’ in a depth of 60-120m (196-390ft).
On Wednesday two seat cushions, believed to be from the single-engine Piper Malibu, were found on the Normandy coast.
Members of Mr Sala’s family and friends arrived in Guernsey last Saturday and several members of the group were later taken to the small island of Burhou.
Emiliano Sala’s mother and sister arrived at Guernsey Airport following a flight out to the search area west of Alderney on January 28
The islet was the focus of social media attention on the night of the disappearance after members of the public shared a picture which appeared to show flares coming from the island.
However, John Fitzgerald, the director of Channel Islands Air Search, said the island and its surrounding area had been searched many times.
He added: ‘It is really a puffin reserve. It is tiny but you can land on it,’ he said. ‘The plane and helicopters have been over many times since [the night the plane vanished], but they haven’t seen anything in that area.
‘It is only a few hundred metres long and it has been saturated by helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
‘The flares I have seen pictures of are most likely aircraft trails.’