A PRIVATE search for Emiliano Sala has today been launched after Lionel Messi and host of football stars helped raise £267k for a rescue mission.
The athlete’s agency Sport Cover this morning confirmed two Guernsey based fishing vessels are working in the area where the plane last had radar contact.
Today’s hunt is being supported by a huge fundraising effort that has seen Lionel Messi and a host of football stars raise more than £267,000.
A statement on the GoFundMe page read: “The call for funds launched late Friday afternoon allowed the relatives of Emiliano Sala, via a specialised organisation, to resume research in the Channel early Saturday morning. Two boats conduct the operations.”
More than 1,700 sq-ft of land and sea had been scoured by search and rescue teams after the Argentine ace’s small private plane went missing over the Channel on Monday.
He was flying from Nantes, western France, to Cardiff after making a club-record £15million transfer to the Premier League strugglers.
Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan, Nantes manager Vahid Halilhodzic, Leicester City winger Demarai Gray and Bayern Munich’s Corentin Tolisso have all contributed to the donation page.
It was set up by Sala’s French football agency, Sport Cover, while a petition launched in France has gathered more than 80,000 signatures.
Argentine footie legends Messi and Diego Maradona are among those who have made public pleas for the search to be restarted.
The country’s president Mauricio Macri also told his foreign minister to issue formal requests to Britain and France for search efforts to be resumed, according to a statement from the premier’s office on Friday.
We will find Emiliano and the pilot. He is a fighter and we feel he is still out there.
Three planes and five helicopters racked up 80 hours combined flying time looking for the plane, working alongside two lifeboats and other passing ships.
Guernsey’s harbour master explained a “difficult” decision was made to call off the mission, saying the chances of survival were “extremely remote”.
Sala’s sister Romina made a heartfelt plea for the search to start up again as she broke down in tears outside Cardiff City’s stadium.
She said: “We really are thankful for the support of all the players in the way they have said that we should not stop our efforts.
“We will find a way to restart the search. We will find Emiliano and the pilot.
“He is a fighter and we feel he is still out there.
“He has been travelling from the age of 16.
“We know he is somewhere – we want to bring him back.
“We’ve been in touch with people who are investigating. We are trying to best to find Emiliano because we are sure he is still here.
“We are very humbled by the way people are helping.”
Sala’s agent, Mark McKay is reported to have booked part-time pilot Mr Ibbotson to fly the plane to and from Nantes after the star pleaded to get back in time to train with his new teammates.
The plane was a 25-year-old single engine Piper Malibu air craft with a single engine.
Cardiff chiefs said Sala had declined the club’s offer to take a commercial flight from Nantes after saying goodbye to teammates at the French club.
Sala sent audio messages about the “bumpy ride” he was having as the plane hit bad weather near Guernsey.
It also emerged that his flight was delayed for 10 hours – forcing the plane to fly through the night.
Sala was flying to south Wales after saying goodbye to teammates at FC Nantes on Monday, where he earned a transfer to the Premier League with 13 goals in 18 games in Ligue 1 this season.
The plane left Nantes at around 7.15pm on Monday, having originally been scheduled to depart on Monday morning.
The aircraft got into difficulties while crossing the English Channel and vanished at around 8.30pm.
Aviation experts have told The Sun the plane could have been brought down by a build-up of deadly ice on the wings, causing the pilot to stall.
One expert said: “There are reports that the footballer was texting saying the aircraft is shaking and breaking up are classic signs of icing on the wings”.
“The pilot is most likely wrestling with a stall at 2,300ft.
“It is likely, though, that the aircraft hit the water in one piece otherwise debris would have quickly been found.”
It has also emerged Cardiff City are set to launch a legal bid to recoup the £15million they could lose over the Sala plane disaster.
Cardiff now faces an initial loss of around £14million, even after insurance kicks in, the Daily Telegraph reports.
But club bosses are planning their next step as it is predicted they will be forced to pay out £30million for a three-year contract deal, including a £2.5million agents’ fee.
Sala’s agent McKay has also revealed that the star shared jokey texts with his son Jack, who is also a Cardiff player, while they discussed his flight arrangements, reports the BBC.
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Jack apparently told his new teammate his dad would arrange the flight “for free if it helped him score goals”.
The men then discussed the difficulty of flying to Nantes by a commercial airline.
Agent McKay added: “We had no involvement in selecting a plane or a pilot and we also wish to make clear again we do not own the plane that Emiliano flew on.”
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