Emiliano Sala's family call for crashed plane to be salvaged after carbon monoxide finding


An investigation has found that Sala and pilot David Ibbotson were both subjected to toxic levels of the colourless and odourless carbon dioxide before their fatal plane crash into the English Channel.

Sala was travelling from the French city of Nantes to Cardiff having completed a move to Cardiff City just days earlier for a club-record transfer fee.

The 28-year-old had flown back to Nantes to say farewell to family, friends and his former team-mates but on his return to England, the Piper Malibu aircraft carrying Sala and Ibbotson crashed off the coast of Guernsey on the night on 21 January 2019.

Toxicology tests performed on Sala’s body have since found that CO levels in his blood were high enough that they could have caused a seizure, unconsciousness or a heart attack.

Sala had a carboxyhaemoglobin (a mixture of carbon monoxide and haemoglobin) saturation level of 58 per cent, per a Air Accidents Investigations Brach (AAIB) report.

Investigators added that a level of over 50 per-cent can be considered potentially fatal in an otherwise healthy person, with the gas able to damage the brain, heart and nervous system.

Sala’s body was retrieved from the wreckage on February 7 after extensive efforts to locate the missing aircraft, but Mr Ibbotson’s body has not been found nearly six months on.  

It is assumed, however, that the 59-year-old pilot, from north Lincolnshire, was also affected by exposure to the carbon monoxide.

The report said: “It is clear from the symptoms that exposure to CO (carbon monoxide) can reduce or inhibit a pilot’s ability to fly an aircraft depending on the level of that exposure.”

Argentine Sala’s family have requested that the plane’s wreckage now be salvaged following the AAIB report in order to further analyse the reasons behind the crash.

In a statement, they said via lawyer Daniel Machover: “That dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide have been found in Emiliano’s body raises many questions for the family.

“How he died will be determined at the inquest in due course.

“The family believe that a detailed technical examination of the plane is necessary.

“The family and the public need to know how the carbon monoxide was able to enter the cabin. 

“Future air safety rests on knowing as much as possible on this issue.

“Emiliano’s family call on the AAIB to salvage the wreckage of the plane without further delay.”

The team of investigators are now exploring ways that the gas may have entered the cabin and are working with aircraft manufacturers and US National Transportation Safety Board to do so. 

The report said that piston engine aircraft such as the Piper Malibu involved in the Sala crash produce high levels of carbon monoxide.

The gas is normally conveyed away from the aircraft through the exhaust system but poor sealing or leaks into the heating and ventilation system can enable it to enter the cabin.

An initial inquest into the accident heard the a post-mortem in Bournemouth Coroners’ Court on February 11 had found that 28-year-old Sala had died due to head and trunk injuries.

The full cause of the footballer’s death will be determined once the investigation and inquest are fully completed.


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