8th February 2019 – The body recovered by British investigators from the submerged wreckage of a plane that went down in the English Channel has been identified as that of footballer Emiliano Sala, police said late last night.

The Argentine striker’s body was first spotted by rescuers with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) on Sunday close to where the plane went missing near the British island of Guernsey.

It was recovered on Wednesday and brought to the Isle of Portland in southern England on board the Geo Ocean III offshore supply ship on Thursday for formal identification by coroners, who investigate violent deaths in Britain.

“The body brought to Portland Port today has been formally identified… as that of professional footballer Emiliano Sala,” police in Dorset, the county where the body was taken, said on Twitter.

“The families of Mr Sala and pilot David Ibbotson have been updated. Our thoughts remain with them all,” police said.

Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), which recovered the body, said that bad weather in the busy shipping thoroughfare meant it was unable to recover the plane and as a result was closing down the operation.

The light aircraft was carrying the 28-year-old footballer to his new Premier League team Cardiff City when it disappeared near Guernsey on January 21, along with 59-year-old Ibbotson.

Forensics load the body of Emiliano Sala into a van

Forensics load the body of Emiliano Sala into a van which will be sent away for an official autopsy

Sala’s disappearance prompted an outpouring of grief across the footballing world, including at his former club Nantes in France where the plane was flying from.

After search operations were suspended in the days after the plane went missing, a shipwreck hunter hired by Mr Sala’s family, with funds donated by football stars such as Lionel Messi, found the wreckage on Sunday.

The AAIB then co-ordinated the recovery and the rescued body was taken to Portland Harbour earlier yesterday and was seen being stretchered into a silver van.

“In challenging conditions, the AAIB and its specialist contractors successfully recovered the body previously seen amidst the wreckage,” the AAIB said Wednesday.

“The operation was carried out in as dignified a way as possible.  The weather forecast is poor for the foreseeable future and so the difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close”.

It said that extensive video footage captured by a remotely operated vehicle is expected to “provide valuable evidence for our safety investigation,” adding that it intends to publish an interim report on the accident later this month.