Premier League club Cardiff City’s record new signing, Argentine striker Emiliano Sala, is missing presumed dead after a light aircraft he was travelling in disappeared over the English Channel.
Sala, signed on Saturday from French club Nantes for a reported fee of 17 million euros ($19.3 million), was flying to Cardiff aboard a small plane that disappeared from radars around 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Guernsey on Monday night.
French civil aviation authorities confirmed that 28-year-old Sala “was on board the plane”. It is thought there was one other passenger on the aircraft.
A statement from police on Guernsey, a British island just off the coast of France, said the pilot had requested to lower his altitude shortly before air traffic control in neighbouring Jersey lost contact with the plane.
After a search was called off on Monday because of high winds, two helicopters, two planes and a lifeboat joined renewed efforts this morning to find the single-propeller plane.
Today’s search has already been suspended, with police warning that survival chances were “slim” if the aircraft landed on water.
Guernsey police said a 15-hour search covering a 1,155-square-mile (3,000-square-kilometre) area in the Channel spotted “a number of floating objects in the water”.
“We have been unable to confirm whether any of these are from the missing aircraft,” the police said in a statement.
“We have found no signs of those on board. If they did land on the water, the chances of survival are at this stage, unfortunately, slim.”
The search included aircraft and sea vessels from the Channel Islands, the UK and France, and will resume tomorrow, the police said.
Sala’s father, Horacio, earlier told Argentine television station C5N he was “distraught” at the news, which he discovered from press reports.
“I don’t know anything, I haven’t had any information. I can’t believe it, it’s incredible,” he said. “I’m distraught. Hopefully everything will be OK.”
Sala, who had been at Nantes since 2015 and had scored 13 goals in all competitions this season, had signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with relegation-threatened Cardiff subject to receiving international clearance.
“We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing. We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team,” the Premier League club’s executive director Ken Choo said in a statement.
“We continue to pray for positive news.”
Cardiff called off a training session planned for this morning, while Nantes have had their French Cup tie against third-tier side Entente Sannois Saint-Gratien postponed from tomorrow until Sunday.
Meanwhile, Nantes fan group ‘A La Nantaise’ released a statement calling for supporters of Sala’s former club to gather in the centre of the city for a vigil tonight.