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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 March 2019

Footballer Emiliano Sala’s plane made tight turns before crash

Pilot told controllers that he was trying to avoid bad weather

The portrait of Argentinian forward Emiliano Sala at the Beauvoir stadium in Nantes. AFP
The portrait of Argentinian forward Emiliano Sala at the Beauvoir stadium in Nantes. AFP

The light aircraft carrying the Argentinian footballer Emiliano Sala made a series of tight turns before it crashed into the sea, air accident investigators said on Monday.

An initial report into the crash in the English Channel on January 21 revealed that the aircraft repeatedly climbed and descended in an apparent effort to avoid bad weather during the final minutes of the flight.

Some five minutes before the crash, pilot David Ibbotson, told air traffic control that he was heading back up to 3,000 metres after he “avoided a patch” of bad weather in his Piper Malibu plane.

The initial 16-page report included details of the radar tracking of the flight that showed he made a tight right-hand turn shortly before the plane crashed. Aviation expert David Learmount told The Times that it was possible that Mr Ibbotson had become disoriented flying in bad weather at night.

The body of Sala was found inside the badly damaged plane on the seabed after a privately-funded search but Mr Ibbotson remains missing.

The player signed for premiership side Cardiff City from French club Nantes for £15 million on January 18. The following day, Mr Ibbotson flew the player back to Nantes to say his farewells before his planned return to Cardiff.

The report said it would investigate further whether Mr Ibbotson had the correct licence to fly passengers. He was only allowed to fly passengers in the European Union if they shared the cost of the flight, the report said.

Updated: February 25, 2019 11:19 PM

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