SALA'S PLANE: BODY IS FOUND IN WRECK; Family 'want recovery for answers'.
Byline: MARTIN FRICKER
A SEARCH team has spotted a body in the wreckage of the plane that crashed in the Channel with Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala aboard.
Video footage from the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch yesterday showed parts of the Piper Malibu's fuselage 63 metres down on the seabed. The images, shot using a remotely operated vehicle, captured part of the plane's registration - N264DB.
And the AAIB added: "Tragically, in video footage from the ROV, one occupant is visible amidst the wreckage."
The plane vanished on January 21 as the club's new signing, 28, was flying to the Welsh capital from Nantes, where he played in France, with British pilot David Ibbotson, 59.
The initial search was abandoned after four days but following pleas from Sala's Argentinian family and footballers including Barcelona ace Lionel Messi, a GoFundMe page raised [euro]296,000 for a private operation. Two seat cushions, likely to have come from the plane, were found last week on the French coast at Surtainville.
Marine expert David Mearns, known as the Shipwreck Hunter, volunteered to help and revealed on Sunday his vessel, FPV Morven, had found the plane off Alderney within two hours of starting its search. The AAIB then used its own ship to identify it before sending down the ROV. Mr Mearns said: "They saw the registration number and the biggest surprise is most of the plane is there."
Sala's father said of the find: "I cannot believe it. This is a dream. A bad dream."
A decision has yet to be taken on whether to raise the wreck. Mr Mearns said he is in contact with the Sala family, who "desperately" want it recovered.
He said: "They feel that is the pathway to get the answers they need to have. [The AAIB] will be able to rule things out or rule things in, that's the normal investigative process. So it's imperative the plane is recovered - even more so now we know someone is down there."
Asked if the body would be recovered before the wreck, he said: "That's down to the AAIB. The body will be the most sensitive of objects they are picking up so they will be very careful about that."
SEARCH OVER ID number in underwater footage of the plane
RIDDLE Pilot David &, left, where finds were made
LOSS Sala had new life in UK