Emiliano Sala plane crash update: Pilot flew too fast and lost control in bad weather, report says

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has found that the plane that crashed and killed footballer Emiliano Sala, was flown too fast and the pilot lost control while trying to avoid bad weather.

The AAIB concluded that the single-engine Piper Malibu aircraft carrying Sala and pilot David Ibbotson broke apart while being flown too fast for its design limits.

Mr Ibbotson, 59, was probably affected by carbon monoxide poisoning, the report added.
The body of Mr Ibbotson has never been found whilst Sala, who was travelling to Cardiff on a transfer from his club Nantes, was found dead on the 21st of January last year.
Shortly before the fatal crash, he sent WhatsApp messages to friends, saying he thought the Piper Malibu aircraft was going to “fall apart”.
At £15m, Sala was Cardiff City’s record signing. He had played for Nantes for four years and was the club’s star striker, having scored 42 goals in 120 games.
Friday’s report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch has found that Mr Ibbotson lost control of the plane during a manually-flown turn, which was more likely to have happened because the flight was “not conducted in accordance with safety standards applicable to commercial operation”.

After the initial search operation was called off on 24 January, Sala’s family fundraised in order to recover his body.

A post-mortem examination found harmful levels of carbon monoxide in his system and it was therefore likely that the pilot had also come into contact with the toxic gas too.

While the plane’s aircraft maintenance checks were complete, there were no carbon monoxide detectors on board.

Friday’s report found that the most likely reason the gas entered the cabin was a failure in part of the exhaust’s tailpipe.

Before the plane came down, there was a period of erratic flying and any toxic gases would have impacted his ability to control the plane during the later stages of the flight.

As the aircraft made contact with the sea, the tail section broke away, forcing the left wing to come away. It wouldn’t have been possible to survive the impact.

Principal inspector Brian McDermid said: “The aircraft was extensively damaged and the wreckage was in three parts, held together by electrical and flying control cables.”

“The engine had disconnected from the cockpit area, and the rear section of the fuselage had broken away from the forward section…”

“The cockpit area and instrument panel were badly disrupted, such that it would not have been possible with any confidence to determine the position of controls and switches before the crash.”

There has been criticism of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch for failing to recover the plane wreckage when it had the opportunity last year.

Cardiff City Football Club told Sky Sports News: “We welcome the publication of the AAIB report, an important step in understanding the full facts surrounding this tragedy.”

“It is a detailed and technical piece of work which, whilst apportioning no blame or liability, raises a number of questions which we hope will be addressed during the inquest recommencing next week.”

“We are determined to read that the CAA is determined to tackle illegal activities by pursuing those involved, it is a practice which must be stopped and we hope the industry will be supported in order to prevent this tragedy happening again”.

Sala’s family said the report left many questions for the inquest to address and they were determined to find out how and why the footballer died.


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