A 64-year-old man from North Yorkshire has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter by detectives investigating the death of Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala.
Sala was travelling from Nantes to Cardiff on a Piper PA-46 Malibu light aircraft when it crashed into the sea near Alderney on January 21.
The footballer died from massive injuries to his head and chest and could only be identified by his fingerprints.
The body of pilot Dave Ibbotson, 59, wasn’t found in the wreckage, which was discovered on February 3.
Today, Dorset Police revealed that a 64-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter by an unlawful act as part of the investigation into the crash.
A 64-year-old man from North Yorkshire has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter by an unlawful act by detecitves investigating the death of Emiliano Sala
Following the crash, French media reported pilot David Henderson, 60, from York was flying the missing Piper Malibu PA-46, which disappeared near the Channel Islands on Monday night.
He was registered as the pilot for the flight but later took to Facebook to confirm he was alive.
Mr Henderson drafted in Mr Ibbotson to replace him, after asking: ‘Do you want to spend a weekend in Nantes?’
Detective Inspector Simon Huxter, of Dorset Police’s Major Crime Investigation Team (MCIT), said: ‘We have carried out a wide-ranging investigation into the circumstances of the death of Mr Sala and continue to work with partner agencies including the Civil Aviation Authority.
‘As part of this investigation we have to consider whether there is any evidence of any suspected criminality and as a result of our enquiries we have today, Wednesday 19 June 2019, arrested a 64-year-old man from the North Yorkshire area on suspicion of manslaughter by an unlawful act.
Dave Ibbotson, 59, was flying the Piper PA-46 Malibu light aircraft with Mr Sala inside
The original flight plan named David Henderson (pictured with the doomed plane) as the pilot but he pulled out at the 11th hour
David Ibbotson (pictured with wife Nora) was flying the Piper Malibu light aircraft carrying the 28-year-old Cardiff City signing but it has now been claimed he was not allowed to fly at night
Sala’s body was recovered from the wreckage of the plane more than 20 miles off the coast of Guernsey
‘He is assisting with our enquiries and has been released from custody under investigation.
‘This matter therefore is still subject to a live investigation and I would ask the media and members of the public to refrain from speculation, as this could cause additional distress to the families involved as well as potentially hinder the investigation.
‘As is standard practice, we will not be releasing any further information as to the identity of the individual who has been arrested unless that person is charged to appear in court and again would discourage any speculation in relation to this.’
The plane was found off the coast of Guernsey where it had crashed, with Mr Sala’s body retrieved from inside
Sala, 28, (pictured on board a plane late last year) had just sealed a £15 million move to Cardiff City when his plane went missing over the English Channel near Guernsey
The Piper Malibu aircraft was flown by Mr Ibbotson on January 21 with the Cardiff City record signing as his passenger travelling from Nantes
Mr Ibbotson, a boiler engineer and part-time pilot, told a friend he was ‘a bit rusty’ with the instruments of the 35-year-old aircraft.
Aviation authorities later confirmed that Mr Ibbotson – thought to be colour-blind – did not have a ‘night rating’ on his UK private pilot permit.
A source said: ‘Flying outside the restrictions of your licence is illegal and that’s likely to affect the insurance cover for the flight.’
This would mean that Mr Ibbotson may have breached the terms of his licence as European regulations define nighttime as ‘the time from half an hour after sunset until half an hour before sunrise’.
Earlier this month, Wiltshire Police said two people would face charges over a photograph showing Mr Sala at the Holly Tree Lodge mortuary in Bournemouth.
Sherry Bray, 48, has been summonsed for three counts of computer misuse, perverting the court of justice and sending an indecent/offensive message.
Christopher Ashford, 62, has been summonsed in relation to six counts of computer misuse.
The pair, who were arrested in February, will appear before Swindon Magistrates’ Court on July 10.
Timeline: How the Sala tragedy unfolded
January 21, 2019:
The single-turbine engine Piper PA-46 Malibu leaves Nantes at 7.15pm for Cardiff and is flying at an altitude of 5,000ft. At 8.50pm the plane disappears from radar in the English Channel.
The French civil aviation authority confirms Argentinian footballer Emiliano Sala, 28, who had just signed for Cardiff City, was on board the light aircraft. Piloting the plane was David Ibbotson, from Crowle, near Scunthorpe.
Guernsey’s harbour master Captain David Barker says the chances Sala and Mr Ibbotson have survived is ‘extremely remote’.
It emerges that football agent Willie McKay arranged for the flight to take Sala to Cardiff but he says he had no involvement in selecting the plane or pilot. He also backs calls for the search to continue.
Relatives and friends of Sala arrive in Guernsey, having enlisted the help of shipwreck hunting expert David Mearns.
Sala’s family, including his mother Mercedes and sister Romina, take a chartered flight in a plane operated by Guernsey airline Aurigny over the area where the plane disappeared.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) says two seat cushions found washed up earlier in the week near Surtainville on the Cotentin Peninsula are likely to have come from the plane carrying Sala and his pilot.
Wreckage of the plane is located in a fresh, privately funded search which was made possible after a fundraising campaign saw more than £260,000 donated.
A body is visible in seabed video footage of the wreckage of the plane. The AAIB says the footage was filmed using an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) which was surveying the area after the plane was located.
A body seen in the wreckage of the plane is recovered. The AAIB says the body will be taken to Portland to be passed over to the Dorset coroner for examination.
The aircraft remains 67 metres underwater 21 miles off the coast of Guernsey. The AAIB says attempts to recover the aircraft wreckage were unsuccessful and, due to continued poor weather forecast, ‘the difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close’.
The Geo Ocean III search boat returns to dock in Portland, Dorset, carrying the wreckage of the Piper Malibu aircraft. Investigators wait to confirm if the body inside the wreckage is that of the pilot or the Argentinian footballer.
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