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08.36 23 Jan 2019


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Updated 15:05

The search for the plane carrying missing Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala has changed from a rescue operation to a recovery operation, according to authorities.

The Argentinean striker was travelling on a light aircraft that disappeared from radars over the English Channel during a flight from Nantes in western France on Monday evening after completing his club record move to the Premier League.

Last night, officials said a number of floating objects had been spotted in the water - but it was unclear whether the objects were from the missing plane.

There has so far been no sign of the two people on board - with authorities acknowledging that chances of survival are now “slim” if the plane did land on the water.

"No trace"

Guernsey Police said it had searched 280 square miles using multiple aircraft over five hours on Wednesday, but there was "as yet no trace" of the missing plane.

"The search is ongoing and a decision whether to continue will be taken later today," a spokesman for the force said.

The Channel Islands Air Search confirmed the search had moved from a rescue to a recovery operation.

Four possibilities

Guernsey Police had earlier said it was looking at four possibilities for the fate of the plane - including that it landed on water, with Sala and the pilot making it onto a life raft known to be on board.

The other possibilities being explored included that the plane had landed elsewhere but had not made contact, that Sala and the pilot landed on water and were picked up by a passing ship, or that the plane broke up on contact with the water - leaving them in the sea.

Rescuers have also reviewed satellite images and mobile phone data in the hope of finding the pair.

After the search resumed at sunrise this morning, Guernsey Police said: "Two planes are taking off and will search a targeted area we believe has the highest likelihood of finding anything, based on review of the tides and weather since it went missing.

In an update, police said they were searching based on four possibilities - but are focusing on the possibility that the footballer and pilot had made it into a life raft.

In audio messages published by media in Argentina, Sala appeared to inform friends & family that he was concerned about the plane - claiming it looked like the aircraft was "falling apart".

He added: "If in an hour and a half you have no news from me, I don't know if they will send people to look for me, because they will not find me... dad, I'm scared."

Cardiff response

The plane went missing only days after the 28-year-old Argentinian footballer made Cardiff club history when he was bought for a record fee of €20.4m on a three-and-a-half year deal from Nantes.

Cardiff City CEO Ken Choo said they were "very shocked" to hear the news of the missing plane on what was due to be Sala's first day with his new team.

In a statement yesterday, 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. We continue to pray for positive news."

Sala's father Horacio yesterday told reporters: "I don't know what to think... the hours go by and I've just been thinking the worst.

"I spoke to him on Sunday - he was very happy because he was going back to a bigger club which he liked. Things were going well, he was playing well."

Fans, meanwhile, have been leaving flowers in both Nantes and Cardiff in tribute to the missing player.

Flowers left outside Cardiff City Football Club. Picture by Ben Birchall/PA Wire/PA Images

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