Soccer

Emiliano Sala's body recovered from plane wreckage

AP

More than two weeks after the plane carrying Emiliano Sala to a new career in the English Premier League crashed into the sea, police confirmed Thursday that the body recovered from the wreckage was the Argentine soccer player.

A search of the seabed of the English Channel only discovered the Piper Malibu aircraft on Sunday and the agony was prolonged for Sala’s family by the difficulties raising the body to the surface.

“The news is so painful,” Argentine President Mauricio Macri wrote in remarks translated from Spanish on Twitter, reflecting national concerns at home over the fate of Sala. “My condolences to the family, friends and teammates of Emiliano Sala on this tough moment. We are with you.”

Search teams are yet to find pilot David Ibbotson, the only other person on board the light aircraft which lost contact with traffic control near Guernsey on the evening of Jan. 21 as it flew from the French city of Nantes to the Welsh capital Cardiff. At 28, Sala had just secured the biggest move of his career after signing with Cardiff City.

In the south of Wales, they grieved the player who never got to pull on the Cardiff jersey.

“We offer our most heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family of Emiliano,” Cardiff City said in a statement. “He and David will forever remain in our thoughts.”

Horacio Sala, the player’s father, said Monday that he was hoping to “have some sort of certainty.” But Sala’s body was only recovered from the sea on Wednesday before being taken to Dorset in southern England. Sala was formally identified in coroner’s examination on Thursday.

“The families of Mr. Sala and the pilot David Ibbotson have been updated with this news and will continue to be supported by specially-trained family liaison officers,” Dorset Police said. “Our thoughts remain with them at this difficult time.”

Investigators have not been able to recover the aircraft, due to what are being described as “challenging conditions.” With an interim report due to be delivered within a month of the accident, authorities have expressed hopes a remote underwater vehicle provides evidence.

The formal search was called off within three days of the plane disappearing from radar last month. It took a campaign by Sala’s family to raise funds for a private search by American-born, shipwreck-hunting specialist David Mearns, who located the aircraft within hours on Sunday in conjunction with air crash investigators.

“Profound pain over the death of Emiliano Sala,” the Argentine Football Association said. “Our condolences to his family and loved ones.”

Although born in Argentina and developed in the Proyecto Crecer youth academy, Sala made a name for himself in soccer in France after initially joining Bordeaux in 2010.

After finally making his first-team debut in 2011-12, he was sent on loan to Orleans in the third tier of French soccer, where he excelled with 19 goals in one season. Still unconvinced, Bordeaux tested him out with another loan move — this time up a level to Niort in the second division. Sala netted 21 goals, including 18 in Ligue 2, and so Bordeaux gave him his chance in the top flight.