Emiliano Sala’s sister has shared a heartbreaking picture of the footballer’s dog waiting for her owner to return home after the plane carrying the Argentine striker and his pilot was found at the bottom of the English Channel.
The piper malibu aircraft was discovered on Sunday morning by a specialist search party off the coast of Guernsey, with the Air Accident Investigation Branch revealing it contains the body of either Sala, 28, or his pilot David Ibbotson, 59, who are both missing presumed dead.
The Cardiff City striker’s sister, Romina, shared the moving image on Facebook of the footballer’s rescue dog Nala staring out into the distance.
Emiliano Sala’s sister has shared a heartbreaking photograph of the footballer’s loyal dog waiting for her owner to return home
She captioned the photo on Saturday: ‘Nala is waiting for you, too.’
The dog is believed to be one of the reasons for Sala’s return to France after signing in Cardiff, as the striker also said farewell to his former teammates at Nantes before making his way back to Wales.
He was understood to have taken the beloved pet to the kennels before starting the process of moving her to the UK to live with him.
Sala and pilot Ibbotson left Nantes in France for Cardiff on January 21 – after the star signed for the Welsh Premier League team – and disappeared over the Channel.
The dog is believed to be one of the reasons for Sala’s return to France, with the pair (pictured) sharing a close relationship
This is the first picture of the wreckage of Sala’s plane found on the bottom of the Channel
The piper malibu aircraft was discovered on Sunday with the Air Accident Investigation Branch revealing it contains the body of either Sala (pictured), 28, or his pilot David Ibbotson, 59, who are both missing presumed dead
The official search was called off after four days but Sala’s friends, family and fans clubbed together to hire a private search to continue with renowned shipwreck hunter David Mearns.
A host of footballer’s from across Europe made sizeable donations to the campaign, including French World Cup star Kylian Mbappe – who gave $34,000 (£26,000) – and his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Adrien Rabiot and Marseille’s Dmitri Payet.
On Sunday morning, the search team’s efforts paid off.
Geo Ocean III left Ostend in Belgium at 9am and began combing the area. Within hours it was search vessel FPV Morven which picked up a sonar signal from the depths.
The wreckage of the Piper Malibu was formally identified by officials from the Air Accident Investigation Board.
Sala was understood to have taken the beloved pet to the kennels before starting the process of moving her to Wales to live with him
The Piper Malibu carrying Sala from Nantes to Cardiff vanished over Alderney on January 21
The AAIB’s vessel deployed a remote-controlled submarine to examine the plane and confirmed it was the craft carrying the striker.
Families of both men have been informed of the discovery.
It came just two days after cushions from a plane were found on a beach near Surtainville in Normandy, France, directly east of Guernsey where the plane disappeared from radar.
Mr Mearns, the ‘shipwreck hunter’ who found Sala’s plane has said it is ‘imperative’ to retrieve the wreckage from the English Channel for his ‘desperate’ family.
The specialist FPV Morven ship, pictured in Guernsey, was being used in a privately funded search for the plane
Sala’s father Horacio, speaking after his son’s disappearance said how he was ‘desperate’ and in a ‘bad dream’ after the plane’s wreckage was found on the sea bed
Sala’s mother and sister arrived at Guernsey Airport following a flight out to the search area west of Alderney on January 28
He added: ‘(The AAIB) will be able to rule things out or rule things in, that’s the normal investigative process for any crash, so I think it’s imperative that the plane is recovered, and now even more so now we know someone is down there.’
An AAIB spokesman said: ‘Tragically, in video footage from the ROV, one occupant is visible amidst the wreckage. The AAIB is now considering the next steps, in consultation with the families of the pilot and passenger, and the police’.
The image of the plane shows the rear left side of the fuselage, including part of the aircraft registration, N264DB.
A decision has yet to be taken on whether to raise the wreckage to the surface.
Sala’s bereft father Horacio, who has not joined his ex-wife, son and daughter in Britain, told reporters in the Argentinian town of Progreso: ‘I cannot believe it …. this is a dream … a bad dream … I’m desperate’.