Body from wreckage of Sala’s plane arrives in Britain

A police escort drives ahead of a coroners van (grey) carrying a body from the Geo Ocean III, recovered from the wreckage of a plane carrying Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala at Weymouth harbour, south west England on February 7, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 07 February 2019
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Body from wreckage of Sala’s plane arrives in Britain

  • Sala’s disappearance prompted an outpouring of grief across the footballing world, including at his former club Nantes in France where the plane was flying from

PORTLAND: Investigators recovered a body underwater from the wreckage of a plane carrying Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala in the Channel and transported it to the British mainland on Thursday for identification.
Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said that bad weather meant they were unable to recover the plane and as a result it was closing down the operation.
The light aircraft was carrying the 28-year-old footballer to his new Premier League team Cardiff City when it disappeared near the British island of Guernsey on January 21, along with 59-year-old pilot David Ibbotson.
Sala’s 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, a shipwreck hunter hired by Sala’s family with funds donated by football stars such as Lionel Messi found the wreckage on Sunday.
The body was taken to Portland Harbor in southern England on board the Geo Ocean III offshore supply ship.
It was then stretchered into a silver van, with Dorset Police confirming it had “left the boat and left the port,” before being taken to a nearby mortuary for identification and a post-mortem.
“This morning... the body was brought to Portland Port, Dorset, as this is the nearest part of the British mainland to where the plane was located,” said the police statement.
“While formal identification is yet to take place, the families of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson have been updated.”
The AAIB, who took over the operation, had on Monday confirmed that an unidentified body had been found at the site.
“In challenging conditions, the AAIB and its specialist contractors successfully recovered the body previously seen amidst the wreckage,” the AAIB said Wednesday.
“The operation was carried out in as dignified a way as possible.”
But it added: “The weather forecast is poor for the foreseeable future and so the difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close.”
It said that extensive video footage captured by a remotely operated vehicle is expected to “provide valuable evidence for our safety investigation,” adding that it intends to publish an interim report on the accident later this month.
Sala was flying to join up with Cardiff City in what was the most expensive signing in the Welsh club’s history.
Nantes have consulted lawyers to explore legal options to ensure Cardiff pay the transfer fee for Sala, a source close to the French club revealed on Wednesday.
According to the source, the first instalment of the 17-million-euro ($19.3 million) deal for the Argentine striker has yet to be paid, despite the transfer being finalized before the accident.
According to BBC Wales, Nantes have given Cardiff a 10-day ultimatum over the first payment of between five and six million euros.
A source at Cardiff told British media that the Welsh club will honor the contract but only once they have clarified “all the facts.” Cardiff are said to be “surprised” with the timing of the demand so soon after the tragedy.
The plane, a Piper PA-46 Malibu, vanished from radar around 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Guernsey, with pilot Ibbotson the only other person aboard.
After the official rescue team gave up their search, saying there was little chance of finding anyone alive, Sala’s family raised more than 370,000 euros ($422,000) in an online campaign to pay for a private hunt.
“Had that not happened, I don’t think anybody would have searched for the plane,” shipwreck hunter David Mearns, whose private company found the plane, told AFP.
The discovery of two seat cushions on the French coast last week revealed that the plane had broken apart, Mearns added.
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.
“We hope the two bodies are inside (the plane). It’s over, the only thing I hope now is that they find them.”


US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019
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US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.