Two years on and questions still unanswered about footballer Emiliano Sala's death

UNANSWERED questions still cloud the death of footballer Emiliano Sala, his family have said, as they mark two years since the aircraft he was in crashed into the English Channel.

Today [21 January] was the anniversary of the death of the 28-year-old Argentinian, who was involved in a multimillion-pound transfer from FC Nantes in France to Cardiff City FC, when the single-engine Piper Malibu plane carrying him, crashed north of Guernsey in 2019.

His body was recovered the following month, but the aircraft's unqualified pilot, David Ibbotson, 59, from Crowle, Lincolnshire, has still not been found.

David Henderson, who allegedly arranged the flight, is due to stand trial in October accused of endangering the safety of an aircraft, as well as attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorisation.

An inquest into Sala's death cannot take place until the proceedings involving Mr Henderson are completed.

Oceanographer David Mearnes and the Sala family at Guernsey Airport in 2019 after the plane that Emiliano Sala was travelling on crashed into the sea north of the island. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 29145079)

This has led to the footballer's family to request a start date from the senior coroner for Dorset, Rachael Griffin.

'It is a tragedy that two years have passed since Emiliano's death and we still do not know exactly how and why he died,' the Sala family lawyer, Daniel Machover, said today.

'An inquest is the only way to establish the full truth.

'I very much hope that the Dorset coroner will now set a date for the inquest to start immediately after David Henderson's trial, so that Emiliano's family do not have to endure another bleak anniversary with no answers.'

Two of his former football clubs have paid tribute to his memory.

Flowers and tributes left by the statue of Cardiff City footballer Frederick Charles Keenor outside Cardiff City Football Club after the plane with new signing Emiliano Sala on board went missing over the English Channel two years ago. Ben Birchall/PA Wire. (29145087)

A club statement from Cardiff City FC, who had only two days prior to the crash completed the signing for Sala for £15m., after four years with FC Nantes, said they 'endorsed' the call by the Sala family for the inquest to begin as soon as possible after the conclusion of Mr Henderson's trial.

They added they had spoken to all relevant bodies including FIFA, the FA, and the police both in England and France to encourage them to work as quickly as possible.

'Everyone involved at Cardiff City Football Club sends their deepest sympathy, again, to the families of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson on this the second anniversary of their tragic death.

'They will always be in our thoughts and prayers.'

The Club is currently working closely with Sala's family towards creating the Emiliano Sala Memorial Trust to support the late striker's family, including his mother Mercedes Taffarel, his brother Dario and his sister Romina.

FC Nantes published a tribute podcast to the footballer alongside the message 'forever in our hearts'.

  • A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch previously concluded that the aircraft carrying Sala and Mr Ibbotson suffered an in-flight break-up while being flown too fast for its design limits, and that the pilot lost control while attempting to avoid bad weather.

  • It added that Sala was exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide prior to the crash and this had poisoned both himself and Mr Ibbotson, whose flying ability was probably affected by this.

  • Investigators found that a contributory factor in the crash was Mr Ibbotson's lack of recent practice in relying only on cockpit instruments to control a plane, as well as having no training in night flying.

  • They also found that he held a private pilot's licence that did not allow him to conduct flights for reward.

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