A privately funded search will resume this morning for the plane carrying Argentinian footballer Emiliano Sala, which disappeared over the English Channel two weeks ago. This new underwater search team will be led by a marine scientist, who will work closely with the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) on behalf of the Cardiff City soccer star’s family.
CNN says that marine scientist David Mearns, who claims to have located 24 shipwrecks in his career, launched a three-day underwater search off the coast of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands. Mearns hopes to recover the single-turbine Piper Malibu plane that disappeared from radar on January 21.
Sala, 28, and pilot David Ibbotson, 59, were flying from Nantes, France to Cardiff, Wales, when the plane was last seen off of the Channel Islands. The star striker had just signed a $19.3 million contract — moving from the French team to the English Premier League club — and was heading to his new home after saying goodbye to his former teammates in Nantes, located on the west coast of France.
The initial search was called off on January 24 by Guernsey harbor master Captain David Barker, who said that “the chances of survival at this stage are extremely remote.”
Emiliano Sala search: Underwater debris search will begin tomorrow in effort to provide 'answers' to footballer's devastated family https://t.co/AK538acsO3 :Auto pickup by wikyou— UKnewsV (@UKnewsV) February 3, 2019
This new search mission is being financed through a crowdfunding campaign, which got a big boost from French World Cup star Kylian Mbappe, who contributed $34,000. Air traffic control last heard from Sala’s plane as it had requested descent on passing Guernsey, but then disappeared from radar at approximately 2,300 feet. Days later, seat cushions believed to be from Sala’s plane washed up on a beach near the French town of Surtainville, near Guernsey.
Sky Sports says that the underwater search has been narrowed down to four square nautical miles in the English Channel. Chief investigator Mearns launched the search with two vessels using sonar equipment to survey the selected area, located 24 miles north of Guernsey, toward the French coast.
The GoFundMe page raised over £300,000 to (hopefully) recover the wreckage and the bodies onboard.
Mearns released a statement with his search intentions.
“We will be running lines in a grid pattern, we call it mowing the lawn, just like you mow the lawn to make sure the grass is cut, we do the same thing so we have 100 percent coverage of the seabed. Once we locate any wreckage then we go into the next phase of identifying it visually with a robotic vehicle… that will be to define and identify the wreckage.”