Emiliano Sala: Player's family call for inquest date to be set

Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson
Emiliano Sala (left) was on board a plane being flown by pilot David Ibbotson when it crashed

Emiliano Sala's family have called for an inquest date to be set, two years after the footballer's death.

A plane carrying Sala, 28, and pilot David Ibbotson, 59, crashed into the English Channel on 21 January 2019 on its way from Nantes, France to Cardiff.

"It is a tragedy that two years have passed since Emiliano's death and we still do not know exactly how and why he died," said a family statement.

"An inquest is the only way to establish the full truth."

In March 2020, coroners had initially said that a full inquest into the deaths of both men would not take place until at least March 2021.

That first delay was due to an ongoing Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) investigation into the crash, but any inquest must now wait until the conclusion of a criminal court case stemming from the tragedy.

David Henderson has been charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft and attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorisation, charges which he denies.

Mr Henderson is alleged to have arranged the flight which was bringing Argentine striker Sala to join up with new club Cardiff City.

Last October, the senior coroner for Dorset, Rachael Griffin, said the full jury inquest would be adjourned until the conclusion of Mr Henderson's trial - which is not due to start until 18 October 2021.

"I very much hope that the Dorset Coroner will now set a date for the inquest to start immediately after David Henderson's trial, so that Emiliano's family do not have to endure another bleak anniversary with no answers," added the statement, released by lawyers on behalf of Sala's family.

In a statement Cardiff City again offered "deepest sympathy" to Sala's and Ibbotson's families and backed their call, saying: "The club endorses the call by the Sala family for the inquest to begin as soon as possible after the conclusion of David Henderson's trial."

"The club has spoken to all relevant bodies including Fifa the FA (Football Association), and the police both in England and France to encourage them to work as quickly as possible."

The Piper Malibu N264DB carrying Sala and pilot Mr Ibbotson went missing over waters near the Channel Islands.

It took rescuers two weeks to find the wreckage. Sala's body was recovered on 8 February 2019 after a private rescue team took over the search.

The body of Mr Ibbotson, from Crowle in Lincolnshire, has never been found.

A final report by the Air Accidents Investigations Branch (AAIB) concluded that the single-engine aircraft had been leaking carbon monoxide during the flight and a final manoeuvre by Mr Ibbotson to pull up the plane had caused it to break up mid-air.

Investigators found a contributory factor in the crash was Mr Ibbotson having no training in night flying, and a lack of recent practice in relying only on cockpit instruments to control a plane.

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

Potentially fatal levels of carbon monoxide had been found in Sala's blood, although an initial inquest hearing into his death at Bournemouth Coroners' Court in February 2019 heard that a post-mortem determined he died of head and trunk injuries.

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