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Cardiff City ‘in shock’ after plane carrying Emiliano Sala disappears over English Channel

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Update 3pm: Cardiff City’s chief executive has said everyone at the club is in ‘shock’ after a plane carrying new record signing Emiliano Sala disappeared over the English Channel.

Ken Choo was speaking as one of the men leading the search warned that the chances of finding survivors were “reducing very rapidly”.

The search was launched last night after the Piper PA-46 Malibu light aircraft disappeared from radar en route from Nantes in France to Cardiff, where the Argentinian striker was due to join his new teammates for training today.

Emiliano Sala playing for FC Nantes (AP/David Vincent)

Mr Choo said: “We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing.

“We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team.

“Our owner, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, and chairman, Mehmet Dalman, are all very distressed about the situation.”

Cardiff City Football Club Chief exec Ken Choo (PA Wire)

He added: “All of us at Cardiff City FC would like to thank our fans, and the entire footballing family for their support at this difficult time.”

Mr Choo said the Premier League club had called off training this morning, adding that “the thoughts of the squad, management staff and the entire club with Emiliano and the pilot.”

“We continue to pray for positive news.”

(PA Graphics)

Over 1,000 square miles has been searched by five aircraft and two lifeboats but “no trace” of the plane has been found, Guernsey Police said.

John Fitzgerald, chief officer of Channel Islands Air Search, said: “I think with the sea temperatures and the sea conditions the chances of finding anybody alive are reducing all the time.

“The sea temperatures are very, very cold and just sap the core temperature of anybody in the water very, very quickly.”

An update from Guernsey Police said: “Conditions during the search last night were challenging, with wave heights of up to two metres, with heavy rain showers and poor visibility.

“Today the sea is much calmer and although visibility was good, it is now deteriorating.”

The plane, a single turbine engine aircraft carrying the footballer and his pilot, left Nantes at 7.15pm for Cardiff and was flying at an altitude of 5,000ft.

As it was passing Guernsey, the pilot “requested descent” but Jersey air traffic control (ATC) lost contact while it was flying at 2,300ft around 15 miles north of Guernsey.

Rescue teams were scrambled but were unable to find anything on Monday night, with the search resuming at 8am on Tuesday.

Premier League strugglers Cardiff paid a fee in the region of £15m for the footballer, one of the leading scorers in French Ligue 1.

A photograph posted on Sala’s Instagram account on Monday showed him with teammates from his former club FC Nantes with a caption that included the word “ciao” (bye).

FC Nantes postponed its next Coupe de France match in the wake of the news.

The manufacturer of the missing aircraft said it had not received any official notification of the incident.

A spokeswoman for Piper said: “Once notified, Piper Aircraft will assist the local and US government agencies as required.”

Update 11am: Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala on board plane missing in English Channel

Cardiff City’s Argentinian footballer Emiliano Sala was aboard a small passenger plane that went missing off the coast of the island of Guernsey, France’s civil aviation authority has said.

French and British maritime authorities were searching the English Channel for the plane.

Guernsey police said the flight left yesterday evening from Nantes en route to Wales with two people aboard.

Police say the search resumed this morning and that no trace has currently been found.

The French regional maritime authority sent a search helicopter.

The 28-year-old Sala, who has been playing for French club Nantes, signed for Premier League team Cardiff on Friday for a club record fee.

Update 9.35am:Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala on board plane missing in English Channel

Argentinian footballer Emiliano Sala was on board a plane that went missing over the English Channel on Monday night, French media have reported.

The Nantes striker was announced as a new signing for Premier League club Cardiff City on Saturday.

French media, quoting police sources, said the 28-year-old striker was on the light aircraft that disappeared from radar on Monday night while apparently flying from Nantes to Cardiff.

French media have reported that Sala was driven to the airport by Nantes defender Nicolas Pallois.

Premier League strugglers Cardiff paid a club record fee in the region of £15 million (€17 million) for the footballer, one of the leading scorers in the French Ligue 1.

Sala posted a photo to his Instagram and Twitter accounts on Monday afternoon posing with the rest of the Nantes squad.

He captioned the photo: “The final [heart emoji] goodbye @FCNantes.”

Police on Guernsey said the search for the plane resumed at 8am on Tuesday, adding: “At this time no trace of the missing aircraft had been found.”

The search had been called off at 2am “due to strengthening winds, worsening sea conditions and reducing visibility”.

Police said in a statement that the aircraft left Nantes at 1915 for Cardiff and was flying at 5,000 feet.

The statement added: “The aircraft on passing Guernsey requested descent. Jersey ATC (air traffic control) lost contact whilst it was flying at 2,300 feet.”

Earlier: Search launched for plane missing in the English Channel

Earlier 6.59am: An air and sea search has been launched after a plane disappeared from radar in the English Channel.

Rescue teams were scrambled to waters north of Alderney after the light aircraft vanished on Monday evening, Guernsey Police said.

“A search and rescue operation is currently underway off the north of Alderney after a light aircraft disappeared from radar several hours ago,” the force said.

“Two helicopters alongside the Guernsey and Alderney lifeboats are searching for it.”

The Alderney lifeboat said it launched at 8.50pm on Monday night.

At that time there were some showers around, but nothing too intense

According to the BBC, the Piper Malibu with two people on board lost contact near the Casquets lighthouse around eight miles north-west of Alderney at 8.30pm.

The plane is thought to have been travelling from Nantes in Brittany to Cardiff.

HM Coastguard said the incident was not in the UK search and rescue area, although it had sent two helicopters to help.

“HM Coastguard are currently assisting Guernsey Coastguard with a search for a light aircraft off Alderney in the Channel Islands,” a spokeswoman said.

“HM Coastguard helicopters from Solent and Newquay have been helping to search overnight with nothing found.”

The search and rescue operation had to deal with worsening conditions as they scoured the area on Monday night.

“At that time there were some showers around, but nothing too intense. Wind speeds were not too bad – average speeds were around 15 to 20mph,” Met Office meteorologist Mark Wilson said.

“But it has got pretty wet, we’ve seen a band of rain push down from the north-west. That rain set in around 11.30pm to midnight and it’s still raining now.

“It’s also a bit windier, with gusts around 35mph.”

– Press Association



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