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Sala family 'still have some hope' as new search for striker launched.

Byline: AINE FOX and KATIE SANDS newsdesk@walesonline.co.uk

EMILIANO Sala's family still have hope and are treating the footballer's disappearance as a missing person case, a spokesperson has said.

The light aircraft on which new Cardiff City signing Sala, 28, and pilot David Ibbotson were travelling in disappeared near the Channel Islands last Monday shortly after requesting to descend.

The plane had taken off from the French city of Nantes and had been due to land in the Welsh capital later that night, with Sala due to train with his new club on Tuesday morning.

But the aircraft vanished from radar and, after days of searching by boat and air, the official search operation was stood down on Thursday afternoon.

Harbour Master Captain David Barker said the search had covered an area of approximately 1,700 square miles - with a significant amount of that area being searched more than once - with no trace of the aircraft, its pilot or passenger being found.

The decision to end the search left Sala's family distraught, with his sister Romina pleading for the efforts to continue. She was backed by Argentinian football stars Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona and Sergio Aguero, and the country's president Mauricio Macri.

Sala's sister arrived in Guernsey yesterday, while an online crowdfunding campaign, which has raised more than [euro]300,000, allowed a private search to get under way on Saturday.

David Mearns, representing the Sala family, told the BBC: "The family still have some hope and they're looking at this as a missing person, a missing plane, and until they're satisfied, that's the mode that we're in.

"At some point in time in the future, we'll be looking at more investigative, technical searches underwater, and that's all I'll say about that."

He said earlier yesterday that "rough sea conditions will be the main complicating factor during the search".

Further details on how the search will be redefined are set to be released today.

ITV reported that marine scientist David Mearns will be working with local recovery experts looking for the aircraft, while the latest underwater technology will be used to scan the 60m deep seabed around Casquets island, eight miles north-west of Alderney.

Ouest France reported on Saturday that two boats had been sent out into the English Channel.

The news was confirmed to AFP by Maria Jose Sottini, friend of Romina Sala, the player's sister, who said: "The appeal for funds Friday late afternoon allowed the relatives of Emiliano Sala, via a specialised body to resume research in the English Channel early Saturday morning. Two boats conduct operations."

A post on the GOFUNDME page said: "The cost related to the search is subject to variables (duration, weather conditions, towing, etc) and we hope to cover the maximum expenses related to our quest. The family and we thank you once again for your exceptional generosity: players, clubs, staffs and anonymous. #NODEJENDEBUSCAR EmilianoSala."

Meanwhile, it was revealed that football agent Willie McKay arranged for the flight to take Sala from Nantes to Cardiff but had no involvement in selecting the plane or pilot.

McKay's son, Mark, was the acting agent for Nantes in a move which made Sala a club-record transfer for Cardiff. His other son, Jack, who plays for the Bluebirds, exchanged a series of text messages with Sala, suggesting a private flight from Cardiff to Nantes, and then back to south Wales two days later.

McKay senior, who has released those messages, said a commercial flight to the French city would have involved going via Amsterdam.

Cardiff's staff and supporters, meanwhile, will wear yellow daffodils at Arsenal tomorrow in respect of Sala and the club captains will place floral tributes at the ground.

On Saturday tributes were paid to the missing men before games including the FA Cup match between Swansea and Gillingham at the Liberty Stadium and Stoke's home meeting with Preston in the Sky Bet Championship.

>> Questions remain: Page 21

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<B Flowers and tributes near a giant picture of Emiliano Sala outside the FC Nantes training camp in Nantes
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 28, 2019
Words:677
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