Donations soar to £150k in search for missing Cardiff City player Emiliano Sala

Donations to help fund a search for missing Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala have topped £150,000.

Cardiff striker Emiliano Sala who was on board of a missing plane that vanished from radar off Alderney in the Channel Islands. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Cardiff striker Emiliano Sala who was on board of a missing plane that vanished from radar off Alderney in the Channel Islands. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

An official search operation for the Piper PA-46 Malibu carrying the Argentine striker and pilot David Ibbotson was called off on Thursday.

Pleas for the search to resume have come from the 28-year-old player’s family, Argentinian football stars Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona and Sergio Aguero, and the country’s president Mauricio Macri.

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Mr Macri told his foreign minister to issue formal requests to Britain and France for search efforts to be resumed, according to a statement from the premier’s office on Friday.

The aircraft disappeared from radar over the English Channel on Monday night.

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Donations from footballers including Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan have helped a GoFundMe page raising money for the search to continue to surpass 180,000 euro (£155,000).

Meanwhile, a petition demanding that the search be resumed has gathered more than 80,000 signatures.

Club chief executive Ken Choo said the club has informed authorities it wants the search restarted.

The Sala family is also planning to organise a private search with hired divers, according to Argentinian media outlet Ole.

Guernsey’s harbour master Captain David Barker said the decision to stop actively searching had been a “difficult” one, but the chances of survival after such a long period are “extremely remote”.

Mr Barker acknowledged the footballer’s family are “not content” with the decision but said he is “absolutely confident” no more could have been done.

Romina Sala, joined by her partner Juan Miaz and cousin Maria Sottini, viewed tributes outside Cardiff’s stadium on Friday.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) opened a probe after the light aircraft disappeared from radar on Monday night.

Their investigations will include whether the pilot had the correct licence.

Mr Ibbotson, 59, of Crowle, Lincolnshire, held a private pilot’s licence and passed a medical exam as recently as November, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.

The Civil Aviation Authority said the aircraft was registered in the US, so fell under American regulations.

US law states private pilots cannot make a profit by carrying passengers.

The flight left Nantes in France for Cardiff at 7.15pm on Monday, and after requesting to descend, lost contact with Jersey air traffic control over the English Channel.

Football agent Willie McKay arranged for the flight to take Sala to Cardiff but said he had no involvement in selecting the plane or pilot.

He has also backed calls for the search to continue.

Cardiff City had signed Sala for a club record £15 million to bolster their attack, and he was due to start training next week.

The club’s staff and supporters are being encouraged to wear yellow daffodils for the match against Arsenal on Tuesday.

Rescue teams scanned around 1,700 square miles and examined mobile phone data and satellite imagery but found no trace of the aircraft.

Three planes and five helicopters racked up 80 hours’ combined flying time looking for the plane, working alongside two lifeboats and other passing ships.