Tributes left outside the stadium for Emiliano Sala in France. Photograph:( Reuters )
Henderson, who was the plane's operator, recalled being 'very, very concerned, distressed really,' when he was told that contact had been lost with the plane
The man on trial over the 2019 plane crash that killed Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala told a British court on Thursday that he had been haunted by the tragedy.
David Henderson, 67, is standing trial at Cardiff Crown Court, accused of endangering the safety of the plane. He has pleaded not guilty.
He has pleaded guilty to a separate charge of attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorisation.
He told court on Thursday that "not a day or hour goes by" when he does not think of the accident.
Sala, 28, and pilot David Ibbotson, 59, died when the single-engined Piper Malibu plane came down in the Channel en route from Nantes, northwest France, to Cardiff.
The forward had signed for Cardiff City, who were then in the Premier League, for a club record £15 million (18 million euros, $19 million) from French side Nantes.
Henderson told court that he was on holiday in Paris when football agent William McKay contacted him, asking if he could fly Sala to Cardiff.
He declined the request but instead rang Ibbotson, who "immediately said yes", he claimed.
"My intention was to leave it with him (Ibbotson). He had taken over responsibility of everything related to the flight," Henderson said, calling him an "experienced pilot".
But Ibbotson had never held a licence to fly at night and his certification to fly the Piper Malibu had expired in November 2018 -- two months before the fatal crash, court was told on Wednesday.
Henderson, who was the plane's operator, recalled being "very, very concerned, distressed really," when he was told that contact had been lost with the plane.
"I was badly affected by the news," he added.
"I've had huge anxiety. Not a day or hour goes by without it being in my mind."
A British air accident investigation report published in March last year concluded Ibbotson was not licensed to fly the plane or to fly at night.
It assessed that he lost control and flew too fast as he tried to avoid bad weather, and that both he and Sala were affected by carbon monoxide poisoning before the crash.
Sala's body was recovered from the seabed the following month but that of Ibbotson was never found.