Update On Emiliano Sala: Two Seat Cushions Found On French Beach

Parts of the missing aircraft carrying Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson are understood to have washed up on a beach in France.
The plane went missing last Monday when flying over the Channel at around 8.30pm, with official searches finding no traces of either the aircraft or those on board.

The official search for the missing footballer was called off last week Thursday against his family's wishes.

Since then, a privately-funded search has been scouring the Channel for signs of the missing plane and its occupants - the footballer and pilot David Ibbotson. 

Private searches have been ongoing since Saturday, though, and the Air Accident Investigation Branch has revealed that two seat cushions "likely" to be from the plane were discovered on the beach in north-eastern France, around 40 miles from where the aircraft vanished above Guernsey.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch said in a statement: 

Since we opened our safety investigation on Tuesday 23 January, we have been gathering evidence such as flight, aircraft and personnel records, and have been analysing radar data and air traffic tapes. We have been working closely with other international authorities and have kept the families of those involved updated on our progress. 

On the morning of Monday 28 January, we were advised by the Bureau d'Enquêtes & d'Analyses (BEA), the French safety investigation authority, that part of a seat cushion had been found on a beach near Surainville on the Cotentin Peninsula. A second cushion was found in the same area later that day. From a preliminary examination we have concluded that it is likely that the cushions are from the missing aircraft. 

From the moment we were notified of the missing aircraft, we have been looking at the feasibility of conducting an underwater seabed search for aircraft wreckage. Based on a detailed assessment of the flight path and last known radar position, we have now identified a priority search area of approximately four square nautical miles. 

Through the Ministry of Defence's Salvage and Marine Operations (SALMO) Project Team, we have commissioned a specialist survey vessel to carry out an underwater survey of the seabed to try to locate and identify possible aircraft wreckage. 

Due to the weather and sea conditions, we currently expect our underwater seabed search to start at the end of this weekend and to take up to three days. Side-scan sonar equipment will be used to try to locate the wreckage on the seabed. If the wreckage is found, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) will be used to visually examine the wreckage. 

We are aware that a privately operated search is also being conducted in the area, and we are liaising closely with those involved to maximise the chance of locating any wreckage and ensure a safe search operation.  

Our remit is to undertake safety investigations to establish the cause of accidents. We do not apportion blame or liability.

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