The search for a missing plane carrying footballer Emiliano Sala and a pilot is now a recovery operation, as officials confirmed they will decide later today whether to continue looking for the pair.
Cardiff City’s new 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.
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 has confirmed the search has moved from a rescue to a recovery operation.
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.
Police had previously warned that the chances of Sala and the pilot surviving were “slim” if the aircraft landed on water.
The footballer reportedly voiced fears about the safety of the missing plane in a WhatsApp audio message he sent to friends while on board.
In the message, a voice – reported to be Sala’s – is heard saying: “I am here in the plane that seems is about to fall to pieces.”
He later adds: “I’m scared.”
Addressing the media in his home country of Argentina, the footballer’s father said he was “beginning to think the worst”.
Horacio Sala said: “The hours pass and I am just beginning to think the worst.
“We were in touch on Sunday. He was so happy that he was going there, to an even bigger club.”
Concerns were raised when the 28-year-old failed to respond to messages on social media after reports he had been travelling to the UK on Monday.
The Argentinian forward, who had played in France since 2012, made Cardiff City history when he was bought for a record fee of £15m on a three-and-a-half year deal from Nantes at the weekend.
The search for the missing aircraft was suspended overnight on Tuesday, with rescue teams finding “no signs” of the plane.
Cardiff City chairman Mehmet Dalman confirmed the club had not booked the aircraft for the trip and Sala had “made his own arrangements”.
The PA-46 Malibu, a single turbine engine aircraft, left Nantes for Cardiff at 7.15pm on Monday and after requesting to descend, it lost contact with Jersey air traffic control.
Nantes’ next Coupe de France match was postponed following Sala’s disappearance and fans gathered in the city’s Place Royale on Tuesday night to sing songs and lay tributes.
Cardiff’s next match against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday is expected to go ahead as planned.
(c) Sky News 2019: Emiliano Sala: Search for missing footballer and pilot may be called off