Military experts to join search for missing plane

LONDON • British military investigators are to carry out an underwater search for the plane that vanished with the Argentinian footballer Emiliano Sala on board after his country's government asked Britain to extend the hunt.

The development came as it emerged that two cushions believed to have come from the missing plane washed up on the coast of France, about 32km from the last known location of the aircraft.

Ministry of Defence salvage experts are to work alongside shipwreck specialists hired privately by Sala's family to search for the plane, which vanished above the Channel Islands on Jan 21 en route from France to Cardiff.

Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has identified a "priority search area" of about four square nautical miles (14 sq km) where it believes the wreckage of the plane may lie. However, the start of this operation has been delayed by poor weather.

The active search for the Cardiff striker Sala and the pilot, David Ibbotson, was halted last Thursday by the Guernsey harbour master, sparking an outcry from Sala's family and a host of Argentinian footballers including Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

On Wednesday evening, the Argentinian embassy in London suggested the search had been ramped up again after its intervention.

Earlier in the day, it emerged that two blue seat cushions believed to be from the plane had washed up on a French beach.

The AAIB said: "On the morning of Monday, Jan 28, we were advised by the Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses, the French safety investigation authority, that part of a seat cushion had been found on a beach near Surtainville on the Cotentin peninsula.

"A second cushion was found in the same area later that day. From a preliminary examination, we have concluded that it is likely that the cushions are from the missing aircraft."

Shipwreck experts hired by Sala's family with the help of hundreds of thousands of pounds of donations have been preparing to launch their own search.

This week, they revealed they were planning to use a remotely operated vehicle to comb an area of about 25 sq nautical miles and they believed there was a good chance of finding the plane.

Both Sala's experts and the AAIB have said they will be able to work together.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2019, with the headline 'Military experts to join search for missing plane'. Print Edition | Subscribe