Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 May 2019

Cardiff City 'shocked and distressed' at news plane carrying new striker Emiliano Sala crashed in English Channel

French Civil Aviation Authority confirmed the Argentine striker was on the lightweight Piper Malibu aircraft

Cardiff City's executive director Ken Choo last night expressed his shock and distress at hearing the plane carrying new striker Emiliano Sala has gone missing over the English Channel.

Sala, 28, was on his way back to Wales after saying goodbye to his Nantes teammates on Monday night when contact was lost with the aircraft.

Choo said in a statement: "We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing. We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team.

"Our owner, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, and chairman, Mehmet Dalman, are all very distressed about the situation."

The French Civil Aviation Authority confirmed that Sala was on the lightweight Piper Malibu aircraft.

Guernsey police said "no trace" of the missing aircraft had so far been found.

Choo added: "We made the decision first thing this morning to call off training with the thoughts of the squad, management staff and the entire club with Emiliano and the pilot.

"All of us at Cardiff City FC would like to thank our fans, and the entire footballing family for their support at this difficult time," Choo added.

"We continue to pray for positive news."

Graphic: Ramon Penas / The National
Graphic: Ramon Penas / The National

Sightings of red flares were reported during a lifeboat and helicopter search, but "nothing of significance was found", a spokeswoman for Channel Islands Air Search said.

The plane took off from Nantes at 7.15pm local time, and had been flying at 5,000ft when it contacted Jersey air traffic control requesting descent, officers said.

The aircraft lost contact while flying at around 2,300ft.

Two people are believed to have been on board the plane.

French police said the aircraft disappeared from radar near Alderney, an island in the English Channel, last night.

Officers from Guernsey, another island in the area, said a search-and-rescue operation was under way.

The rescue party included two helicopters and a lifeboat.

HM Coastguard said the incident was not in the UK's specific search and rescue area, although it confirmed it had sent two helicopters to help.

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Read more:

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Sala's father, Horacio, told Argentine television station C5N he was "distraught" at the news, which he discovered from press reports.

"I don't know anything, I haven't had any information. I can't believe it, it's incredible," he said. "I'm distraught. Hopefully everything will be OK."

Sala had signed a three-and-a-half year deal with the Welsh club after scoring 12 Ligue 1 goals in 19 appearances this season.

Choo described Sala as a "great person" and revealed he had been "so happy" to sign for Cardiff.

He said in an in-house TV interview: "You could see from his face he is so, so happy to be here and ready to start.

"Words cannot describe the look on his face when he met us, we walked him around the ground, he was absolutely ready to give it a go.

"We really feel sad to hear of this news because we met such a great person."

The accident, if confirmed, comes only three months after the Thai billionaire owner of Leicester City football club died in a helicopter crash that shocked the club and supporters around the world.

Updated: January 23, 2019 02:04 PM

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