The search for the missing plane taking Argentine soccer player Emiliano Sala to his new team in Wales was called off for the night last night with authorities not expecting to find any survivors in the English Channel.
Police said floating objects had been seen in the water but they were unable to confirm whether they were from the light aircraft that disappeared from radar on Monday night off the coast of Guernsey as it made the journey from Nantes.
The 28-year-old Sala had spent the previous hours saying farewell to teammates at the French club after Cardiff signed him for a club-record fee last week.v
“After all this time, the weather’s quite cold, the water is very cold out there... I am not expecting anyone to be alive,” Channel Islands Air Search chief officer John Fitzgerald said. “We just don’t know how it disappeared at the end of yesterday. It just completely vanished.”
Authorities have found no sign of those on board.
“If they did land on the water,” Guernsey Police said, “the chances of survival are at this stage, unfortunately, slim.”
Britain’s Coastguard received an alert at 8.23pm on Monday from air traffic control in Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, after it failed to make contact with the Piper PA-46 plane with two people on board, Guernsey police said. The French civil aviation authority confirmed Sala was one of the people.
Authorities have been searching for 15 hours in total. They suspended the search later Tuesday after sunset.
Sala’s last post on Instagram was a picture on Monday with Nantes players alongside a message which translates as “the last goodbye.”
Cardiff announced it had signed Sala for a reported £15m (€17.1m) through 2022. He was in Cardiff last week to finalise the transfer, which was awaiting international clearance.
The Premier League did not respond to questions about whether the transfer had been completed.
I can’t wait to start training, meet my new teammates and get down to work,” Sala said in a video posted on the club’s website.
Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri, who coached Sala at Nantes, added in a statement on Twitter: “I was devastated to hear the news. Emiliano is a wonderful character. He’s a fighter. The world of football will be united in wishing for some positive news. I pray for Emiliano and his family.”
A powerful and direct player, Sala equalled his career-best total of 12 goals — achieved in the past two seasons with Nantes — in 19 league games this season.
He is the fifth-highest scorer in the French league, one behind Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar, the world’s most expensive player.
“He was a polite, nice and adorable player who was loved by everybody,” Nantes president Waldemar Kita told French TV channel CNews.
Nantes was due to play Entente Sannois in the French Cup today but the third-tier club said the match was postponed until Sunday.
Cardiff also cancelled its training session scheduled for yesterday. Executive director Ken Choo expressed his shock and distress at the news.
“Our owner, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, and chairman, Mehmet Dalman, are all very distressed about the situation.
“We made the decision first thing this morning to call off training with the thoughts of the squad, management staff and the entire club with Emiliano and the pilot.
All of us at Cardiff City FC would like to thank our fans, and the entire footballing family for their support at this difficult time.
“We continue to pray for positive news.”
Sala, a native of Santa Fe in Argentina, played at youth level for Club Proyecto Crecer in his home country before being snapped up by French club Bordeaux in 2010.
He was then sent out on a series of loans to Orleans, Niort and Caen and, after failing to make more than a handful of appearances for Bordeaux, joined Nantes in 2015.
It was in Brittany that his career began to flourish.
Sala’s hat-trick against Toulouse in October 2018 was the first by any Nantes player in Ligue 1 since 2006.