Buenos Aires Times

sports EMILIANO SALA

Macri, family, footballers call for resumption of Sala plane search

Hunt for the small passenger plane that disappeared while carrying the Argentine striker and his pilot from Nantes to Cardiff was called off on Thursday, after a three-day air-and-sea operation failed to locate the aircraft.

Saturday 26 January, 2019
Romina Sala holds a press conference at Cardiff on Thursday.
Romina Sala holds a press conference at Cardiff on Thursday. Foto:AFP/ GEOFF CADDICK

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President Mauricio Macri yesterday added his voice to calls asking Britain and France to resume the search for the plane carrying Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala that disappeared from radar over the English Channel earlier this week.

A statement from the office of Presidency said yesterday that Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie would make a formal request to the two European nations.

Argentina’s Ambassador in the UK Carlos Sersale di Cerisano also made an appeal on Friday. Argentine footballers across the globe, including Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona, also demanded the authorities resume the search.

Messi wrote on Instagram: “As long as there are still possibilities, a hint of hope, we ask you please continue to look for Emiliano.”

Maradona also posted on Instagram, pleading for the search to continue, with the message: “Hope never dies.”

From England, Mancherster City star Sergio Agüero and Tottenham Hotspur players Paulo Gazzaniga, Juan Foyth and Érik Lamela added their voice to the calls.

“We don’t want to give up, we want to hold on to hope,” tweeted Agüero. “That’s why I also wish #NoDejenDeBuscar – don’t call off the search. From the start, my thoughts have been with Emiliano, his family and friends.”

Authorities said on Thursday they were no longer searching for the plane after a three-day air-and-sea operation near the Channel Islands failed to locate the aircraft, Sala or pilot David Ibbotson.

The plane disappeared from radar over the English Channel. It was last known to be flying near Hurd’s Deep, an underwater valley which has a depth of more than 100 metres (328 feet).

The plane was flying from the French city Nantes to the Welsh capital Cardiff on Monday.The 28-year-old Sala was due to start playing for English Premier League club Cardiff after being transferred from Nantes this month.

‘TOTAL DISGRACE’

Speaking at a press conference in France yesterday, Nantes coach Vahid Halilhodzic called the decision to call off the search “a total disgrace” and “disgusting.”

“For me, it’s a disgrace to stop like this. I don’t think it’s enormously deep not to be able to find it. It’s an obligation these people have,” Halilhodzic said.

Halilhodzic was visibly moved as he spoke about Sala.

“I had a special relationship with this lad because we spoke a lot together, worked a lot together,” he said. “The last thing he said to me was he regretted we could no longer work together and that remains engraved deep in my heart.”

“It’s a total disgrace. You can’t leave it this way. To stop like this is unbearable and unacceptable. Can you imagine the family? Yesterday, did you see how his sister expressed herself?”

Halilhodzic said: “I just have one message to those responsible, that they continue their search because it’s disgusting to leave a situation like that. I can’t imagine how his family is taking this.”

Speaking in Cardiff on Thursday, Sala’s sister Romina said: “Please, please, I’m asking you — don’t stop searching. They’re alive.”

“We miss him and we know he’s here,” she told a press conference in Cardiff.

“From the bottom of my heart I know that Emiliano is a fighter and he and the pilot are somewhere in the middle of the channel. They’re not going to give up so please don’t stop the search.”

“We came looking for him and we’re going to take him back with us,” she added.

“All he wanted was to play football and fulfil his dream.”

Her family plans to continue the search “until the very end”, she explained, breaking into tears.

Sala’s family have asked his former club Nantes not to commemorate their former teammate at this weekend’s French Cup clash with third-tier Entente Sannois Saint-Gratien.

PILOT PROBE

British investigators said yesterday they were probing the licence held by the pilot of the small plane. The local coastguard on Wednesday named the pilot, the only other person in the plane, as David Ibbotson – a 60-year-old married father of three from northern England, according to reports.

A spokesman for Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) told AFP that his licence would be reviewed as part of its probe into the plane’s disappearance.

“We would look at operational aspects of the flight and that would include licensing,” the spokesman said. “Our purpose is not to apportion blame or liability. Our purpose is to establish the cause of an accident.”

Ibbotson reportedly told a friend via social media shortly before take-off that he was “a bit rusty” with some of the controls on the plane.

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