Concerns are growing for the fate of new Cardiff City FC striker Emiliano Sala after a private plane he was believed to have been flying in disappeared from radar while crossing the English Channel between England and France, according to the Daily Mail.
Cardiff City FC, who are battling relegation from the English Premier League only confirmed the signing of Sala on Saturday. He signed for a club record transfer fee of £15 million ($19.5 million) from the French side FC Nantes. Sala had traveled back to France to bid farewell to his former teammates and was due to report for training with his new teammates this morning.
However, the Piper Malibu light aircraft on which Sala was traveling with one other person disappeared from radar while crossing the English Channel close to the Channel Islands. It was flying at an altitude of 5,000 feet and is believed to have contacted air traffic control on the island of Jersey to request descent.
Contact with the aircraft was lost while it was flying at 2,300 feet close to the island of Alderney. The plane’s last recorded position was close to the Casquets Lighthouse, which is infamous among sailors and is the site of many shipwrecks.
A massive air and sea search operation, involving lifeboats and helicopters from both England and France, is now underway, but at the time of writing there has been no trace spotted. The search was suspended at 2 a.m. local time due to strengthening winds, worsening sea conditions, and reducing visibility. It resumed at 8 a.m. local time.
The Met Office in the UK, which produces weather forecasts, said that at the time the plane disappeared “there were some showers around but nothing too intense. Wind speeds were not too bad – average speeds were around 15 to 20mph”.
Mehmet Dalman, the Chairman of Sala’s new club, Cardiff City issued a statement saying, “‘We are very concerned by the latest news that a light aircraft lost contact over the Channel last night. We are awaiting confirmation before we can say anything further. We are very concerned for the safety of Emiliano Sala.”
A source close to his former team FC Nantes told the Mail, “Emiliano loved the club, and was loyal to everyone… He was here to say goodbye and was due to go to Cardiff on a private plane. It was just a short hop and he was expected in Wales around 9 p.m. He was very excited about playing in Britain. Everyone, including his family, is now involved in an unbearable wait for news.”
With permission from the French Football Federation, FC Nantes have confirmed that their French Cup game against L’Entente Sannois Saint-Gratien, which was scheduled to take place tonight, has been postponed.