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Cushions found likely to be from missing Sala aircraft: British air investigation

A image of Emiliano Sala is left outside the stadium as tribute. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters London, UK Jan 30, 2019, 08.14 PM (IST)

Investigators searching for a lost plane carrying Premier League soccer player Emiliano Sala said on Wednesday an underwater search would begin after they found two seat cushions on the French coast that likely belonged to the aircraft.

The 28-year-old Argentina-born forward had been en route from Nantes in western France with pilot David Ibbotson to make his debut for Welsh team Cardiff City when the plane disappeared over the English Channel.

Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said part of a seat cushion had been found on a beach near Surtainville on the northern French coast. A second cushion was found in the same area later that same day.

"From a preliminary examination, we have concluded that it is likely that the cushions are from the missing aircraft," the AAIB said in a statement.

Investigators said they now planned to launch an underwater seabed search for aircraft wreckage. Due to weather conditions, the search would start at the end of this weekend and take up to three days.

"Based on a detailed assessment of the flight path and last known radar position, we have now identified a priority search area of approximately four square nautical miles," they said.

A three-day search for the forward and pilot David Ibbotson ended last Thursday after rescuers said there was little chance anyone aboard the single-engine aircraft had survived.

The private search, which is being paid for by fundraisers, involves fishing boats and a survey vessel equipped with state-of-the-art search equipment which will be used to conduct an underwater search.

Earlier, members of the Sala family had taken a private flight to see the area where the rescuers have been searching.

Story highlights

A three-day search for the forward and pilot David Ibbotson ended last Thursday after rescuers said there was little chance anyone aboard the single-engine aircraft had survived.