Search for Emiliano Sala suspended with footballer’s survival chances now ‘slim’

Police in the Channel Island of Guernsey said they were suspending their search for the light aircraft that was carrying Sala and a pilot on Wednesday evening, adding that a decision on whether to continue looking would be taken on Thursday morning.

“After an intensive search using multiple aircraft and one lifeboat over the last nine hours, we have found no trace of the missing plane,” they said in a statement. “With the light now fading, the search will shortly be suspended for the night.”

Floating objects have been found in the water, and police on the island, which sits off the north coast of France, have warned the chances of the passengers surviving are “slim”.

Guernsey Coast Guard captain David Barker said there was “as yet no trace today of the missing aircraft”.

The pilot had requested to lower his altitude shortly before air traffic control in neighbouring Jersey lost contact with the plane.

Earlier on Wednesday, Argentine media reported that Sala sent a final message before the plane disappeared from radar around 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Guernsey on Monday night.

Fans show their support in Nantes (Reuters/S. Mahe)

Fans show their support in Nantes

“I’m on a plane that looks like it’s going to fall apart, and I’m leaving for Cardiff,” the 28-year-old said in a rambling WhatsApp audio message. Sala had just agreed to join Premier League outfit Cardiff City from French club Nantes.

“If in an hour and a half you have no news from me, I don’t know if they will send people to look for me, because they will not find me, you know… I’m so scared,” he added.

Sala’s mother Mercedes claims the plane belonged to Cardiff chairman Mehmet Dalman, which he denies. Dalman said the club had offered to pay for his flight but Sala had “made his own arrangements”.

With his former teammates in shock, Nantes have postponed their French Cup tie against third-tier side Entente Sannois Saint-Gratien on Wednesday until Sunday while there have been shows of support from fans in the French city,  in Cardiff and from Argentinians in football including Diego Maradona and Real Madrid boss Santiago Solari.

“We feel great sadness of course and we send all the strength and love in the world to the relatives, close friends, and people that know him,” Solari said. “And of course we never lose hope until the end.”

mp (AP, Reuters)

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