The Piper PA-46 Malibu Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson were travelling in disappeared off the radar over the English Channel
Relatives and friends of the Emiliano Sala arrived in Guernsey on Saturday and are understood to have hope he could still be alive.
The family of missing footballer Emiliano Sala have launched a private search in the hope he might still be alive.
Relatives and friends of the Argentinian striker arrived in Guernsey on Saturday after the official rescue operation was called off earlier this week.
One of the world’s leading shipwreck hunters, David Mearns, has been brought in to lead the search and is expected to use the latest underwater technology.
His equipment includes a multi-beam sonar, remote control vehicles and a drop down camera. The rescue mission for Sala and missing pilot David Ibbotson will be launched next week after bad weather passes over the English Channel.
A gofundme campaign has so far raised more than £277,000 donated by more than 4,300 people. The appeal was launched by Sport Cover, a Paris-based football agency run by the new Cardiff City player’s agent Meissa N’Diaye.
Mr Mearns, who was said to be speaking on behalf of the family, said they wanted to be near where the plane was last located and to have some of their questions answered.
He said: ‘The family still have some hope, they’re looking at this as a missing person, a missing plane, and until they are satisfied, that’s the mode that we’re in.’
He added at some point in the future there could be ‘more investigative technical searches underwater’. Sala and pilot Mr Ibbotson have been missing since last Monday, when the Piper PA-46 Malibu they were travelling in disappeared off the radar over the English Channel.
Rescue teams scanned around 1,700 square miles and examined mobile phone data and satellite imagery but found no trace of the aircraft, and the official search was called off on Thursday. More than 80,000 people have signed an online petition demanding the search for the missing aircraft continues. Pleas for the search to resume have come from the 28-year-old player’s family, Argentinian football stars Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona and Sergio Aguero, and the country’s president Mauricio Macri.
Guernsey’s harbour master Captain David Barker said last week that the decision to stop actively searching had been ‘difficult’, but the chances of survival after such a long period were ‘extremely remote’.
Three planes and five helicopters racked up 80 hours’ combined flying time looking for the plane, working alongside two lifeboats and other passing ships. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) have also opened a probe and their investigations will include whether the pilot had the correct licence. Mr Ibbotson, from Lincolnshire, held a private pilot’s licence and passed a medical exam as recently as November, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.
The flight left Nantes in France for Cardiff at 7.15pm on Monday, and after requesting to descend, lost contact with Jersey air traffic control over the English Channel. Football agent Willie McKay arranged for the flight to take Sala to Cardiff but said he had no involvement in selecting the plane or pilot. Cardiff City had signed Sala for a club record £15 million and he was due to start training on Tuesday.