The search for the missing plane carrying new Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala has been called off with the the chances of survival described as “extremely remote”.
Guernsey Police shared an update from Harbour Master Captain David Barker which said that “despite the best efforts of air and search assets from the Channel Islands, UK, and France” no trace of the missing plane has been found.
Sala, 28, was onboard the small Piper Malibu aircraft alongside British pilot David Ibbotson.
“There has been over 24 hours of continuous searching, with 80 hours combined flying time across three planes and five helicopters,” Captain Barker added.
“We have reviewed all the information available to us, as well as knowing what emergency equipment was on board, and have taken the difficult decision to end the search.
“The chances of survival at this stage are extremely remote.”
Sala’s sister, Romina, told media she thought of him as a “fighter” and urged the emergency services to continue their search for him.
Speaking in Spanish, she told reporters in Cardiff that she feels her brother and his pilot are still alive.
The decision to call off the search came after investigators combed an area of 1,700 square miles in an effort to locate the small craft.
It emerged on Wednesday that Sala recorded several WhatsApp voice messages during his journey, in which he expressed concerns for the plane’s airworthiness.
“I’m here on a plane that looks like it’s about to fall apart,” Sala said in one message.
Asked whether the footballer’s message may be of use in determining if there was an engine issue, Captain Barker said: “It’s possible. I know that the Air Accidents Investigation Branch are capable of forensically examining the recordings.
“And they will be looking very carefully at the recordings from weather radar and from primary and secondary air traffic control radars.”
The Argentine striker had been flying to Cardiff after signing for the Welsh side from FC Nantes in a reported £15m deal last week.
The aircraft left Nantes in north west France just after 7pm on Monday, but lost contact at 2,300ft and vanished from radar off Alderney.
Reports said that airport workers at Nantes observed the plane experiencing difficulty getting airborne, with at least three attempts made before it successfully took off.
The plane lost contact near the Casquets lighthouse around eight miles north-west of Alderney in the Channel Islands at 8.30pm.