Emiliano Sala: Family launch legal action over air crash death

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Sala posing with a Cardiff City shirt on 20 JanuaryImage source, AFP
Image caption,
Emiliano Sala had just signed with Cardiff City before the crash

The family of footballer Emiliano Sala has begun legal action against his old club and Cardiff City, which he was joining when he died in an air crash.

The Argentinian national died when the plane taking him from Nantes to the Welsh capital crashed into the sea north of Guernsey on 21 January 2019.

Lawyers said the action was being taken to "protect [the family's] legal rights" pending an inquest's outcome.

The full jury inquest into Sala's death has been set 14 February, 2022.

It was confirmed by Rachael Griffin, senior coroner for Dorset, at pre-inquest proceedings in Bournemouth, during which the scope of the hearings was outlined.

Sala's family's legal team has listed 13 defendants in their case and are ready for the proceedings to be delayed until after the inquest.

As well as the two football clubs, football agent Mark McKay who was working for Nantes in the transfer deal, and his father Willie McKay are named in the civil proceedings, along with the company that owned the plane, the plane's manufacturers and those involved in its maintenance.

The proceedings will go ahead after the inquest, and the trial of David Henderson - who is accused of organising the flight from Nantes - in October.

Striker Sala, 28, had been signed for £15m from FC Nantes, and was on the way to his new club on 21 January 2019, when the plane crashed.

The body of pilot David Ibbotson, 59, from Crowle, Lincolnshire, has not been found.

Mr Henderson faces charges of endangering the safety of an aircraft, as well as attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorisation.

Prior to a pre-inquest hearing, lawyer Daniel Machover said Sala's family wanted the coroner to fix the inquest date soon after the trial of Mr Henderson, which is due to start on 18 October.

Media caption,

Cardiff could have done more - Willie McKay

"In the meantime, in order to protect their legal rights and remedies arising from Emiliano's untimely death, the family have commenced civil proceedings in the High Court, but will seek agreement to stay those proceedings pending the outcome of the inquest," he added.

"That makes it all the more important for the inquest date to be fixed, so everyone can plan accordingly.

"Most importantly, the family know that the inquest will provide the answers to the very many questions they have about what went wrong in January 2019 and why Emiliano's life was cut short."

A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch previously concluded the aircraft carrying Sala and Mr Ibbotson suffered an in-flight break-up while being flown too fast for its design limits, and the pilot lost control during bad weather.

Image caption,
Emiliano Sala was on board a plane bound for Cardiff from Nantes when it disappeared from radar

It added Mr Ibbotson was probably affected by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Investigators found that a contributory factor in the crash was the fact he had had no training in night flying, and a lack of recent practice meant he was relying only on cockpit instruments to control a plane.

They also found he held a private pilot's licence that did not allow him to conduct flights for reward.

At the pre-inquest hearing, Ms Griffin said the owners and operator of the aircraft and the football agent who arranged the fatal flight had been named as among interested persons for the full inquest.

Dario Sala, Emiliano's brother, and Nora Ibbotson, wife of pilot Mr Ibbotson, were among those attending the pre-inquest review, via a remote link.

Carbon monoxide detectors

Matters the jury will consider include the arrangements for the flight, the operation, condition and maintenance of the aircraft, the qualifications of the pilot, the flight itself and ensuing search and recovery of Mr Sala's body.

The inquest will also consider the design of the plane's exhaust system, maintenance procedures and carbon monoxide detectors, which Ms Griffin said "goes to my duty to prevent future deaths".

Ms Griffin asked those involved to keep eight weeks free from 14 February to allow for "flexibility" if required once the final witness list had been confirmed.

A further pre-inquest review hearing is scheduled for 25 June.

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