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Nantes: Decision to end Sala search ‘disgusting;' investigators focus on pilot license

Emiliano Sala

In this his picture taken on Jan. 14, 2018, Argentine soccer player, Emiliano Sala, of the FC Nantes club, western France, gives a thumbs up during a soccer match against PSG in Nantes, France. The French civil aviation authority says Emiliano Sala was aboard a small passenger plane that went missing off the coast of the island of Guernsey. (AP Photo/David Vincent)


Calls are growing for the search for Emiliano Sala, his pilot and the plane they were in to continue.

His former club Nantes, his sister Romina, Lionel Messi and others stars, a petition in France and now his former club have begged authorities to keep searching for the small plane which disappeared from radar Monday.

Meanwhile, the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) in the UK is looking into whether or not the pilot flying the plane which Sala was on had the correct license to fly.

Dave Ibbotson, the pilot, and Sala were the only two people on board when the plane dropped off the radar near the island of Alderney in the English Channel.

The three-day search for the plane and both individuals was called off on Thursday by Guernsey Police, as nothing has been found. The small aircraft which was carrying the 28-year-old Argentine striker from Nantes, France to Cardiff, Wales.

Sala signed for Premier League side Cardiff on Saturday from Nantes for a club-record fee, reported to be close to $19 million. The striker was on his way back to Wales for his first training session after saying farewell to his Nantes teammates in France.

Via Sky News in the UK, here are a few more details about what is happening now:

“Investigators are checking whether the pilot who disappeared over the Channel alongside Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala had the correct license. Guernsey Police have announced an end to the search for the Piper PA-46 Malibu plane which began on Monday, having deemed the chances of survival to be ‘extremely remote’.”

“But in light of the official search being called off, the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) has opened an investigation and has confirmed it is looking into the licence held by pilot Dave Ibbotson. He was tasked with flying Sala to the Welsh capital after the footballer signed from French side Nantes, where he had been enjoying a prolific season in front of goal. Mr Ibbotson, a 59-year-old from Crowle near Scunthorpe, had checked himself into Nantes airport in France on Facebook when he arrived to collect the record £15m signing - and admitted to friends that he was “a bit rusty”.”

The report from Sky added that Federal Aviation Administration records show that Mr Ibbotson held a private license and passed a medical exam as recently as November. The Civil Aviation Authority added the aircraft was registered in the US, where regulations state private pilots cannot make a profit by carrying passengers.

Cardiff have revealed they didn’t make the arrangements for Sala’s flight back to the UK, as he used soccer agent Mark McKay to arrange the flight. McKay confirmed he helped arrange the flight.

The reaction to the extremely sad incident has continued, as Sala’s former coach at Nantes, Vahid Halilhodzic, said on Friday that it is “disgusting” the police have called off the search.

“For me it’s a disgrace to stop like this. I don’t think it’s enormously deep not to be able to find it. It’s an obligation these people have,” Halilhodzic said. “You can’t just stay like this. It’s a total disgrace. You can’t leave it this way. To stop like this is unbearable and unacceptable. Can you imagine the family? Yesterday did you see how his sister expressed herself?”

Halilhodzic added: “I just have one message to those responsible, that they continue their search because it’s disgusting to leave a situation like that. It’s unbearable. I can’t imagine how his family is taking this.”

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