19:09 GMT16 January 2021
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    A plane carrying Argentinian-born top footballer Emiliano Sala, heading to Wales for his Premier League debut from France, disappeared near the Channel Islands on Monday night. The search for the plane, its star passenger, and the pilot continues, but the chances of finding them alive are “slim”, according to the rescue team.

    While aircraft continue to search for 28-year-old Emiliano Sala, whose plane vanished over the Channel en route from Nantes to Cardiff, desperate voice messages that the footballer allegedly sent while on board the aircraft have been leaked to the media. In the clip, which has been authenticated by the player’s father, according to the Argentinian newspaper Clarin, Sala voiced his unease about the plane that was supposed to take him to the UK for his Premier League debut – a single-engine Piper Malibu.

    "I'm on a plane that looks like it's going to fall apart, and I'm leaving for Cardiff”, he is heard saying.

    He also warned his loved ones: “If in an hour and a half you have no news from me, I don't know if they will send people to look for me, because they will not find me, you know… I'm so scared”.

    The plane carrying Sala, who was signed on Saturday by the Premier League club for a reported record salary of $19.3 million, went off radar around 20 kilometres north of the Crown island of Guernsey. Before going dark, the pilot filed a “VFR” plan, which requires avoiding bad weather and having the ground in sight.

    READ MORE: Cardiff Striker Sala Feared Dead as Missing Plane Search Postponed — Reports

    A 15-hour search on 22 January covered 3,000 sq. km and spotted "a number of floating objects in the water". The search operation resumed today, as planes and a helicopter are scouring the area near the alleged crash site. The police are also reviewing satellite imagery and mobile phone data to see if they can be of any assistance.

    ​The search area is prioritised based on the hope that Sala and the pilot landed on the water and made it into the life raft. However, there are other possibilities, including the worst-case scenario where the aircraft may have broken up upon hitting the water, leaving Sala and the pilot in the cold sea.

    However, rescuers have deemed the chances of finding the footballer or the pilot to be “slim”, with the water temperature barely reaching 10 degrees.

    "We're up there looking for stuff that we don't expect to find… There's no chance. You'd have to be really, really fit to survive even four or five hours in the water", chief officer of the Channel Islands Air Search John Fitzgerald stated.


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    search, police, missing airliner, plane accident, football, Emiliano Sala, Cardiff, France, United Kingdom
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