THE wife of the pilot on the doomed Emiliano Sala flight has blasted critics who blamed him for the crash after bombshell findings revealed they were poisoned by carbon monoxide.
Sala, 28, was exposed to “deadly” levels of the gas before the private plane plunged into the water on January 21, with pilot David Ibbotson‘s body still missing.
It is unclear whether the pair passed out and died on the plane from the exposure – or if they died from their injuries in the crash.
The unexpected twist came after Mr Ibbotson, 59, was widely blamed for the fatal crash – with it previously being revealed he was colourblind and his licence restricted him to flying in daytime hours only.
But the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) suggested the pair could’ve already been unconscious when the doomed plane plunged into the Channel as it flew from France to Cardiff.
Toxicology results on the £15million Cardiff striker’s body showed he had fatal levels of carbon monoxide in his blood.
Asked about the initial findings, she told The Sun Online: “It is what it is. We just have to wait for the results of the tests.
“It was a complete and utter shock.”
The grieving widow agreed that the new findings put a different slant on the case – after months of David being blamed for the tragedy.
She added: “It was all David’s fault, they said.
“That’s the situation I have had to put up with for months. No one cared about us.”
While his body has never been found, the AAIB confirmed Mr Ibbotson would’ve likely suffered the same deadly exposure as Sala – which would’ve “impaired his ability to fly”.
The report said: “It is clear from the symptoms that exposure to CO can reduce or inhibit a pilot’s ability to fly an aircraft depending on the level of that exposure.”
It found the CO gas would likely have leaked from the exhaust into the cabin from “poor sealing or leaks in the ventilation system”.
The AAIB did not specify who should’ve been responsible for checking the plane but said probing “human error” formed an integral part of its investigation.
Sala’s family said the report raised “further questions” into his death, while Cardiff City vowed to “hold those responsible to account”.
What effect does carbon monoxide have on the body?
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that has no smell or taste.
Breathing it in can make you unwell – and it can kill if you’re exposed to high levels.
Every year there are around 60 deaths from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in England and Wales, according to the NHS.
After carbon monoxide is breathed in, it enters your bloodstream.
The chemical then attaches to the haemoglobin – the part of red blood cells that carry oxygen around your body – to form carboxyhaemoglobin.
When this happens, the blood is no longer able to carry oxygen. This lack of oxygen causes the body’s cells and tissue to fail and die.
At a COHb level of 10%, carbon monoxide is likely to cause headaches, and at somewhat higher levels there will be also dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
At a COHb level of about 40%, carbon monoxide starts to cause coma and collapse, and at 50–60% the poisonings are lethal.
Argentine ace Sala had just signed for Cardiff City for £15million from Nantes and was flying to meet his teammates when the Piper Malibu PA-46 flown by Mr Ibbotson went down off Guernsey on January 21, 2019.
Ibbotson did not issue a mayday call but did request to descend – before losing contact with Jersey air traffic control. He is not thought to have expressed feeling unwell.
Authorities launched a search for the aircraft but it was later axed. A £324,000 privately-funded hunt found the plane on February 3.
Sala’s body was recovered three days later.
The body of pilot Mr Ibbotson, of Crowle, Lincs, is still missing.
In the wake of the AAIB toxicology results, aviation expert Julian Bray said: “Carbon monoxide is a silent killer, the pilot wouldn’t even have known.
“It suggests it was the plane and not the pilot which was at fault.”
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It comes after two people are facing prison after admitting they accessed footage of Sala’s postmortem examination.
Christopher Ashford, 62, and Sherry Bray, 49, admitted illegally accessing CCTV at Bournemouth Mortuary.
Both admitted three counts of securing unauthorised access to computer material.