Relatives raise funds to continue search for missing footballer Emiliano Sala

Tributes left outside Cardiff City Stadium for Emiliano Sala, whose plane disappeared from the radar over the English Channel last week.
Tributes left outside Cardiff City Stadium for Emiliano Sala, whose plane disappeared from the radar over the English Channel last week.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Relatives of missing Premier League player Emiliano Sala on Saturday began a privately funded search for his plane, which disappeared over the English Channel, after local coast guard called off their own rescue mission.

The news was announced by an online fundraising campaign for the operation, and confirmed to Agence France-Presse by Maria Jose Sottini, a friend of the Argentinian striker's family.

"The appeal launched late Friday afternoon enabled Emiliano Sala's relatives, via a specialised organisation, to resume research in the Channel early this Saturday morning," said a statement on the GoFundMe website.

"Two boats are leading the operations."

Around 4,000 people have so far contributed to the campaign, which was organised by Sala's agency, Sport Cover, raising almost €321,343 (S$496,167).

The target of €300,000 was reached within a day.

According to the BBC, fellow footballers including Ilkay Gundogan from Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain's Adrien Rabiot and Corentin Tolisso of Bayern Munich have donated to the fund, as did Sala's former manager at Nantes, Vahid Halilhodzic.

A light aircraft transporting Sala, who signed for Cardiff City two Saturdays ago, vanished from the radar around 20km north of the Channel island of Guernsey last Monday night.

The 28-year-old, who moved from French Ligue 1 club Nantes for a club-record fee of £15 million (S$26.7 million), had been flying to the Welsh capital for his first training session after saying goodbye to his former teammates.

Rescue workers formally called off the search for the missing plane on Thursday.

As investigators probe what happened, it emerged that while his football agent Willie McKay had arranged for the ill-fated flight, he did not choose the Piper Malibu plane or its pilot, who has since been named as David Ibbotson.

"We had no involvement in selecting a plane or a pilot and wish to make clear we do not own the plane that Emiliano flew on," the Briton said in a statement.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2019, with the headline 'Relatives raise funds to continue Sala search'. Print Edition | Subscribe