NEWS
04/02/2019 11:47 GMT | Updated 04/02/2019 13:46 GMT

'Body Visible' In Wreckage Of Emiliano Sala Plane, Investigators Say

Just in.

A body can be seen in the wreckage of a plane which disappeared while carrying Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala, investigators say.

Underwater video footage shows one occupant visible in the plane which was found in the English Channel on Sunday, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said.

An image showing the rear left side of the fuselage, including part of the aircraft registration, has been released by the AAIB. 

The plane vanished last month near to the Channel Islands. It had been transporting Cardiff City striker Sala, 28, who was due to begin training for the Welsh side following his transfer from FC Nantes.

It lost contact near the Casquets lighthouse, around eight miles north west of Alderney, at 8.30pm on 21 January.

The plane was found by private investigators after his family and football stars including Lionel Messi raised £325,000 to launch their own search.

On Sunday, two vessels, including one commissioned by the AAIB, using sonar took part in a fresh search covering an area of around four square nautical miles.

Marine scientist David Mearns, the director of Blue Water Recoveries, led a team on the search vessel FPV Morven funded by Sala’s family, while the AAIB also sent a team aboard its the Geo Ocean III.

Mearns, speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, said: “The biggest surprise to us was that most of the plane is there. We were expecting to find a debris field. It is broken but most of it is there.”

“We located the wreckage of the plane on the sea bed at a depth of about 63 metres very shortly after we started searching.

“After that we called in the larger vessel, the GEO Ocean III – that’s the one that’s been contracted by the AAIB. They dove with their remotely operated vehicle (ROV), a submersible with cameras and lights and confirmed that it was the plane. They saw the registration number.”

Sala’s family wanted the plane to be brought to the surface, Mearns said. “I was in touch with the family of Emiliano Sala last night, by text and through Emiliano’s agent, and the family would desperately like the plane to be recovered.”

However the recovery operation has not yet begun as the AAIB is considering the options. 

In a statement, the AAIB said: “Tragically, in video footage from the ROV, one occupant is visible amidst the wreckage. The AAIB is now considering the next steps, in consultation with the families of the pilot and passenger, and the police.”

Mearns said the Geo Ocean III had been contracted for only two more days and it was unlikely to be able to recover the plane in that time.

“That is probably what they are evaluating”, Mearns said. “If they can handle the conditions … then hopefully they will get some more information about how they would attempt that recovery.”

 

This is a breaking news story and will be updated. Follow HuffPost UK on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.