Update: Donations rise amid calls to resume search for footballer Emiliano Sala

Update: Donations rise amid calls to resume search for footballer Emiliano Sala

Donations to help fund a search for missing Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala have topped £150,000.

An official search operation for the Piper PA-46 Malibu carrying the Argentine striker and pilot David Ibbotson was called off on Thursday.

Update: Donations rise amid calls to resume search for footballer Emiliano Sala

Pleas for the search to resume have come from the 28-year-old player’s family, Argentinian football stars Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona and Sergio Aguero, and the country’s president Mauricio Macri.

Mr Macri told his foreign minister to issue formal requests to Britain and France for search efforts to be resumed, according to a statement from the premier’s office on Friday.

The aircraft disappeared from radar over the English Channel on Monday night.

Donations from footballers including Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan have helped a GoFundMe page raising money for the search to continue to surpass 180,000 euro (£155,000).

Tributes outside Cardiff City Football Club (Adam Hale/PA)
Tributes outside Cardiff City Football Club (Adam Hale/PA)

Meanwhile, a change.org petition demanding that the search be resumed has gathered more than 80,000 signatures.

Club chief executive Ken Choo said the club has informed authorities it wants the search restarted.

The Sala family is also planning to organise a private search with hired divers, according to Argentinian media outlet Ole.

Guernsey’s harbour master Captain David Barker said the decision to stop actively searching had been a “difficult” one, but the chances of survival after such a long period are “extremely remote”.

Mr Barker acknowledged the footballer’s family are “not content” with the decision but said he is “absolutely confident” no more could have been done.

Emiliano Sala’s sister Romina Sala (second left) and her cousin Maria Sottini view tributes (Adam Hale/PA)
Emiliano Sala’s sister Romina Sala (second left) and her cousin Maria Sottini view tributes (Adam Hale/PA)

Romina Sala, joined by her partner Juan Miaz and cousin Maria Sottini, viewed tributes outside Cardiff’s stadium on Friday.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) opened a probe after the light aircraft disappeared from radar on Monday night.

Their investigations will include whether the pilot had the correct licence.

Mr Ibbotson, 59, of Crowle, Lincolnshire, held a private pilot’s licence and passed a medical exam as recently as November, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.

The Civil Aviation Authority said the aircraft was registered in the US, so fell under American regulations.

Fans have not given up hope (Ben Birchall/PA)
Fans have not given up hope (Ben Birchall/PA)

US law states private pilots cannot make a profit by carrying passengers.

The flight left Nantes in France for Cardiff at 7.15pm on Monday, and after requesting to descend, lost contact with Jersey air traffic control over the English Channel.

Football agent Willie McKay arranged for the flight to take Sala to Cardiff but said he had no involvement in selecting the plane or pilot.

He has also backed calls for the search to continue.

Flowers and tributes left by the statue of Frederick Charles Keenor outside Cardiff City Football Club (Ben Birchall/PA)
Flowers and tributes left by the statue of Frederick Charles Keenor outside Cardiff City Football Club (Ben Birchall/PA)

Cardiff City had signed Sala for a club record £15 million to bolster their attack, and he was due to start training next week.

The club’s staff and supporters are being encouraged to wear yellow daffodils for the match against Arsenal on Tuesday.

Rescue teams scanned around 1,700 square miles and examined mobile phone data and satellite imagery but found no trace of the aircraft.

Three planes and five helicopters racked up 80 hours’ combined flying time looking for the plane, working alongside two lifeboats and other passing ships.

Earlier: Agent McKay arranged Sala flight but did not select plane or pilot

Football agent Willie McKay arranged for the flight to take Emiliano Sala from Nantes to Cardiff but had no involvement in selecting the plane or pilot.

Guernsey Police have called off the search for Cardiff’s new £15million signing Sala and pilot David Ibbotson after their plane disappeared over the English Channel on Monday evening.

McKay’s son, Mark, was the acting agent for Nantes in a move which made 28-year-old 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.

After signing for Cardiff, Sala returned to Nantes to collect his belongings and say goodbye to team-mates and staff of the Ligue 1 club before heading back to the UK.

McKay, who has met with Sala’s family, said Cardiff were also aware of the travel arrangements for the missing player.

“In regards to the booking of the flight, we contacted David Henderson who has flown us and many of our players all over Europe on countless occasions,” said McKay in a statement.

“We had no involvement in selecting a plane or a pilot and wish to make clear we do not own the plane that Emiliano flew on.

“As the text messages show: Emiliano was not asked for payment for the flight.

“My sons, Mark, Jack and I and the rest of the McKay family would like to offer our sincere support for the Sala family and support their calls for the search to continue.”

In the messages, Sala asks how much the flights will cost. He is told by Jack McKay that they will cost him nothing.

“He (Willie McKay) said if you help me to score goals it’s nothing,” Jack McKay wrote in a message on Friday, January 18.

Sala was pleased with the arrangements and contacted Jack McKay on Sunday, January 20 to ask if he could bring his luggage on the plane, and was told that he could.

Argentina’s president Mauricio Macri has told his foreign minister to issue formal requests to Britain and France for search efforts to be resumed.

A GoFundMe page to raise funds for the resumption of the search had passed £100,000, with the Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan amongst the donors.

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

Earlier: Over £100k raised to continue search for missing footballer Emiliano Sala

More than £100,000 has been raised to fund continued searches for missing footballer Emiliano Sala.

Update: Donations rise amid calls to resume search for footballer Emiliano Sala

A crowdfunding website is aiming to help his family after authorities called off their rescue mission.

Sala’s sister Romina Sala has also urged rescuers to resume the search, as have Argentinian football stars Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona and Sergio Aguero.

The search for the Piper PA-46 Malibu carrying the Argentine striker, 28, and pilot David Ibbotson was called off on Thursday.

More than 60,000 people have signed an online petition demanding the search for the missing aircraft continues.

The aircraft disappeared from radar over the English Channel on Monday night.

Argentina’s president has added to pressure for rescuers to continue the search for the footballer.

PA & Digital Desk

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