Cardiff City Soccer Player Missing After Plane Disappears Over English Channel

January 22, 2019 Updated: January 22, 2019

PARIS—Cardiff City’s new soccer star, Emiliano Sala, was aboard a light aircraft that disappeared en route to the Welsh capital for his club debut, France’s civil aviation authority said on Jan. 22.

Sala was flying to Cardiff from the French city of Nantes when radar contact was lost with the plane near the English Channel island of Guernsey late on Jan. 21.

Rescue aircraft and boats had searched more than 1,000 square miles of sea for the single-engine Piper Malibu by midday on Jan. 22, but “no trace of the missing aircraft had been found,” Guernsey police said.

The 28-year-old Argentine-born forward joined struggling Cardiff City from FC Nantes last week for a club record fee of about $19 million. He had played in France since 2012.

“We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team,” club CEO Ken Choo said in a statement. “We continue to pray for positive news.”

Tributes left for Emiliano Sala
Tributes left for Emiliano Sala outside Cardiff City stadium, Wales, on Jan. 22, 2019. (Reuters/Rebecca Naden)

“The management and the whole club are staying hopeful and the whole FC Nantes family is praying for Emiliano Sala and the other passengers to be found safe and sound,” Nantes said in a statement.

British authorities contacted airfields along the coast to check if the plane had made an unplanned landing, but there was no sign it had, Guernsey police said.

The plane had been cruising at 5,000 feet when the pilot requested to descend to a lower altitude on passing Guernsey. It lost radar contact at 2,300 feet, the police said.

John Fitzgerald, chief executive of Channel Islands Air Search, said, “From what I gather, nothing has been seen as yet. If they are wearing the right dry suits or they got into a life raft, then the probability is not too bad.

“If they are in the water without any protection, the water is really too cold at the moment for any form of survival beyond an hour or so,” Fitzgerald told Sky TV.

By Richard Lough and Emmanuel Jarry