Emiliano Sala's family left to grieve after body formally identified

A fan pays tribute to the Argentine striker whose body was found on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 08 February 2019
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Emiliano Sala's family left to grieve after body formally identified

  • “We can now begin to mourn our son and our brother,” Sala's family say in a statement.
  • Argentine footballing idols Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta pay tribute to Sala.

LONDON: Footballer Emiliano Sala’s family are grieving after British authorities formally identified his body as the one recovered from the submerged wreckage of a plane that went down in the Channel more than two weeks ago.
“We can now begin to mourn our son and our brother,” the Argentine Cardiff City striker’s family said in a statement.
“We would like to thank you for all of your signs of affection and support in the most painful time of our life.
“To see everyone doing everything possible to join us in the search has been a precious help to us,” the family said.
Argentine footballing idols Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta also paid tribute to Sala, 28.
The Premier League player’s former French club, Nantes, said it was withdrawing the jersey with Sala’s No. 9 on it and all Ligue 1 and 2 matches in France this weekend will be preceded by a minute of applause for him.
The light aircraft was carrying Sala from Nantes to his new team when it disappeared near the British island of Guernsey, along with 59-year-old pilot David Ibbotson, who has not been found.
The player’s body was first spotted by British rescuers using a remotely operated underwater vehicle on Sunday close to where the plane vanished from radar on Jan. 21.
Investigators recovered the body on Wednesday and transported it to the Isle of Portland in southern England. From there it was taken to Bournemouth where it was formally identified later.
Investigators said they were abandoning plans also to lift the plane wreckage out of the water because of bad weather.
Sala’s disappearance sparked an outpouring of grief and a flood of cash to support a private hunt for the plane when the official search was initially called off.
“I am very sorry about this sad news. Many of us kept a glimmer of hope for you, Emiliano,” footballing superstar Maradona said on Instagram, after the identification of the body.
“What sadness, this is the worst news. Rest in peace warrior,” tweeted retired Argentine football star Batistuta.
The country’s President Mauricio Macri also offered his condolences to Sala’s family following the “painful news.”
“We are with you,” he added.
The small Argentine town of Progreso, where the footballer lived for most of his childhood, was also in mourning.
“Since we found out, it’s all anyone can talk about,” said local restaurant owner Oscar Heymo, a friend of Sala’s father Horacio. “He was very much loved and admired by all.”
Cardiff City on Twitter expressed their “heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family of Emiliano.”
“He and David will forever remain in our thoughts,” they said.
The plane, a Piper PA-46 Malibu, vanished from radar around 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Guernsey.
The discovery of two seat cushions on the French coast last week revealed that the plane had broken apart.
Initial search operations were suspended in the days after it went missing but a crowdfunding effort supported by thousands of donations, including from football stars such as Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, helped launch a private search.
Without the fundraising effort “I don’t think anybody would have searched for the plane,” shipwreck hunter David Mearns, who was hired by the family, told AFP.
The plane wreckage was spotted by a ship hired by the family. Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) then co-ordinated the recovery.
The AAIB said that extensive video footage captured of the sunken wreckage is expected to “provide valuable evidence for our safety investigation.”
It said it intended to publish an interim report on the accident later this month.
Sala was the most expensive signing in Cardiff’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 said on Wednesday.
According to the source, the first instalment of the 17-million-euro ($19.3 million) deal has yet to be paid, despite the transfer being finalized before the accident.


Lewis Hamilton tells rivals ‘catch me if you can’

Updated 20 February 2019
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Lewis Hamilton tells rivals ‘catch me if you can’

  • Five-time world champion feeling confident of a sixth crown ahead of new season.
  • Pre-season testing going well in Barcelona.

BARCELONA: Lewis Hamilton has warned his rivals they had better get ready to catch his dust as he is feeling “better than ever” ahead of the season.
The 34-year-old Briton enjoyed a near flawless run to secure his fifth drivers’ title last year. He won 11 of the 21 races to beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with two races to spare, and he expects the Italian marque to once again keep him on his toes.
“Ferrari are very strong,” Hamilton said in Barcelona on the third day of pre-season testing.
“It appears they have a better package than last year, which means it will be a bigger challenge for us.
“In the last few years, Ferrari has looked good from the very beginning so that’s to be expected.”
But he said it would be a mistake to draw any hard and fast conclusions from the evidence thrown up by testing.
“We’ll have a better idea I guess this time next week where we stand but still then we won’t know what fuel loads everybody is on and who is showing their cars and who isn’t.”
Hamilton, with a new two-year deal that will earn him £40 million ($52 million) a season, is buzzing after the winter recess.
“I feel in the best shape that I’ve been in,” he assured his fans, as he embarks on his quest for a sixth championship and record sixth consecutive constructors’ crown for Mercedes.
On a sixth title he shrugged: “I am not even focusing on that. It’s a new season, a new year, a new chapter and we have to approach like it’s our first.
“We’re going for number one, that’s how I approach it.
“But it’s not something that I allow my peers to talk about. It’s not what we are here for to focus on that number.”
He dismissed out of hand any notion of complacency setting in at his all-conquering team.
“We are always driven to do something new and to break boundaries and do stuff that no one else has done before but we are fully aware of the work that it will take to deliver something like that and it’s by no means like ‘yeah we are going for the sixth’ like it’s a relaxed thing.
“It’s not like that.”
Hamilton’s bid for title number six begins at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17.