The search for a plane carrying footballer Emiliano Sala which vanished over the English Channel has been suspended overnight, as hopes fade for finding the Premier League star alive.
The Cardiff City striker was on board the small Piper Malibu aircraft, which lost contact over the Channel Islands on Monday night, sparking a two-day search.
The 28-year-old Argentine had been flying to Cardiff after signing for the Welsh side from FC Nantes in a reported £15m deal last week.
John Fitzgerald, chief officer of Channel Islands Air Search, said: “I can’t see how anybody could survive in such temperatures for that length of time.
“Looking at the sea conditions today it’s very rough out there, there’s a good strong wind blowing, with sea conditions [that] are pretty horrendous.”
Officers had said efforts were focused on the theory that both occupants survived the crash and made use of an onboard life raft.
Sala was onboard the plane alongside the pilot, named by police as Briton David Ibbotson.
“Specially trained officers are supporting Mr Ibbotson’s family who have asked for privacy at this difficult time,” Humberside Police said.
Rescue efforts from the Channel Islands, France and the UK throughout Wednesday saw “multiple aircraft” cover a targeted area of 280 square miles.
Investigators are using aerial photography, radar and mobile phone data to determine the plane’s location.
Guernsey Police said earlier that rescue workers searching for the missing plane were now considering four possibilities as to the fate of the plane and its occupants.
The force said these were:
- They have landed elsewhere but not made contact.
- They landed on water, have been picked up by a passing ship but not made contact.
- They landed on water and made it into the life raft we know was on board.
- The aircraft broke up on contact with the water, leaving them in the sea.
Police said the search area was prioritised on the life raft option.
The force added at 17.30pm GMT that rescue workers have so far found “no trace of the missing plane”..
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.
Meanwhile, WhatsApp audio messages apparently recorded by Sala during his journey emerged, in which the footballer is heard questioning the plane’s airworthiness.
This article has been updated throughout.