Premier League footballer was on aircraft which disappeared over Channel Islands
A PREMIER League footballer was on a light aircraft which went missing over the Channel Islands on Monday night, it has been confirmed.
The plane, a Piper Malibu, was travelling from Nantes, in Brittany, to Cardiff when air traffic controllers lost contact at around 8.30pm near the Casquets Lighthouse, off Alderney. The pilot did not issue a distress call.
Premier League footballer Emiliano Sala was on board, French Air Traffic Control have confirmed. The 28-year-old striker completed an £15 million move from Nantes to Cardiff City on Saturday.
Ken Choo, Cardiff City executive director chief executive, said: 'We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing. We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team.
'Our owner, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, and chairman, Mehmet Dalman, are all very distressed about the situation.
'We made the decision first thing this morning to call off training with the thoughts of the squad, management staff and the entire Club with Emiliano and the pilot.
'All of us at Cardiff City FC would like to thank our fans, and the entire footballing family for their support at this difficult time.
'We continue to pray for positive news.'
The most recent tweet from Mr Sala's account was a picture of him and his former team-mates, captioned 'La ultima ciao', or 'the last goodbye'.
The plane left Nantes at 7.15pm and had been flying at 5,000ft when it contacted Jersey air traffic control requesting descent, Guernsey Police said.
The plane lost contact while at 2,300ft and disappeared off radar near the Casquets lighthouse.
There are reports that distress flares were seen shortly after the plane disappeared from the radar.
Guernsey Coastguard launched a number of search-and-rescue assets including Alderney and Guernsey’s all-weather lifeboats. Two UK Coastguard helicopters and the Channel Islands Air Search plane were also involved in the search which was stood down later in the night. It resumed again on Tuesday morning.
Conditions were treacherous during the search with rough seas, heavy rain and gusts forecast to reach up to gale-force eight.
HM Coastguard said the incident was not in the UK search and rescue area, although it had sent two helicopters to help.
John Fitzgerald, chief executive of the Channel Islands Air Search, said: 'We were called out by Guernsey Coastguard at 8.30pm, just as the aircraft had dropped off the radar and we were over Alderney by about 9pm,’ he said.
'We stayed there until midnight before we flew back to Guernsey to change over the crew and refuel.
'There was about 15 to 20 miles visibility so we could see quite a lot during the first search but the lifeboats found it quite difficult. That area is always quite rough but from 1,000 feet, we can see straight down. It was not that bad but at about 2 or 3 am wintry showers set in and the search was postponed. We went out again at 8am.’
Mr Fitzgerald added that the plane could have glided for around five or six miles without a working engine.
'I am sure something will be found eventually. The plane was flying at 2,000ft when it dropped off the radar so it could have flown for about five or six miles before touching down.
'But whether it was a controlled ditching or if it dived in, we just do not know. If it was a controlled ditching, you would expect to find a life-raft but if it was uncontrolled I expect an oil slick and wreckage may be found.'