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WORLD | 07-02-2019 19:54

Body recovered from plane's wreckage identified as Emiliano Sala

Dorset police says body is that of the Argentine footballer, whose plane crashed into the sea while flying from Nantes to Cardiff,

The body recovered from the wreckage of the plane that crashed at sea carrying Emiliano Sala has been formally identified as the Argentine footballer, British officials said this evening.

Dorset police made the announcement after a coroner's examination of the body, which was recovered from the seabed wreckage of the plane on Wednesday. 

"Update: The body brought to Portland Port today has been formally identified by HM Coroner for Dorset as that of professional footballer Emiliano Sala. The families of Mr Sala and pilot David Ibbotson have been updated. Our thoughts remain with them all," Dorset Police posted on Twitter.

Authorities had earlier on Thursday recovered the body from the seabed wreckage of the private plane that crashed on January 21 while carrying Sala and his pilot David Ibbotson. They were the only people onboard the small aircraft that disappeared over the English Channel last month.

Sala's body was first spotted by rescuers with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) on Sunday close to where the plane went missing near the British island of Guernsey.

It was recovered on Wednesday and brought to the Isle of Portland in southern England on board the Geo Ocean III offshore supply ship on Thursday for formal identification by coroners, who investigate violent deaths in Britain.

The Air Accident Investigation Branch said the body was recovered in "challenging conditions" with the "operation was carried out in as dignified a way as possible and the families were kept informed of progress."

Investigators have not been able to recover the aircraft which was flying from Nantes to Cardiff after Sala transferred from the French city's team. AAIB said that bad weather in the busy shipping thoroughfare meant it was unable to recover the plane and as a result was closing down the operation.

However, the AAIB said that video from a remote underwater vehicle "is expected to provide valuable evidence for our safety investigation."

'Forever remain in our thoughts'

After the confirmation of Sala's death, Cardiff issued a statement saying "he and David will forever remain in our thoughts."

President Mauricio Macri, reacting to the news, posted on Twitter just minutes after the news became publicly known.

"What painful news. My condolences to Emiliano Sala's family, friends and colleagues at this very hard time. We're with you," he wrote.

The Argentine Football Association also expressed its condolences on Twitter.

"Profound pain over the death of Emiliano Sala," the AFA said. "Our condolences to his family and loved ones."

Earlier this week the footballer's father, Horacio Sala, acknowledged that there was no prospect of finding his son alive.

"There's no longer any hope," he told Fox Sports.

Outpouring of grief

The light aircraft was carrying the 28-year-old footballer to his new Premier League team Cardiff City when it disappeared near Guernsey on January 21, along with 59-year-old Ibbotson.

Sala had been flying in to join up with his new club in what was the most expensive signing in the Welsh club's history. His disappearance prompted an outpouring of grief across the footballing world, including at his former club Nantes in France where the plane was flying from.

After search operations were suspended in the days after the plane went missing, a shipwreck hunter hired by Sala's family, with funds donated by football stars such as Lionel Messi, found the wreckage on Sunday.

The AAIB then co-ordinated the recovery and the rescued body was taken to Portland Harbour earlier on Thursday and was seen being stretchered into a silver van.

- TIMES/AFP/AP

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