At 15:15 on 24th January 2019, Guernsey Police announced that they had called off the search for missing Cardiff City signing Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson after failing to find any sign.
Harbourmaster Captain David Barker said that the chance of finding the pair alive at this point was “extremely remote”. “We reviewed all the information available to us, as well as knowing what emergency equipment was on board, and have taken the difficult decision to end the search.”
He added: “I understand Emiliano Sala’s family are not content with the decision to stop the search and I fully understand that. I’m absolutely confident that we couldn’t have done any more.”
“Despite best efforts of air and search assets from the Channel Islands, UK, and France, we have been unable to find any trace of the aircraft, the pilot, or the passenger.”
The 28-year-old Argentine striker became Cardiff City’s record signing, joining from Ligue 1 club Nantes for a £15 million fee. He was enjoying a phenomenal season in the French league scoring 12 goals, just one less than Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar.
After the signing was completed he returned to Nantes to say a final goodbye to his teammates, who he had played with for three-and-a-half seasons. It was on this return leg back to Cardiff that the plane disappeared from the radars.
Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan gave a short statement about the events, saying: “We were looking forward to providing Emiliano with the next step in his life and career. Those who met Emiliano described a good-natured and humble young man who was eager to impress in the Premier League.”
“The response from the football community has been truly touching and we place on record our sincere thanks to those who have sent messages of support. We also thank everyone involved with the search and rescue operation, and continue to pray for Emiliano, David Ibbotson and their families.”