Man from Crowle named as pilot of plane carrying Cardiff footballer as rescuers suspend search

A man from Crowle has been named as the pilot of a plane which was carrying a Cardiff footballer when it went missing on Monday.

Wednesday, 23rd January 2019, 8:11 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd January 2019, 8:18 pm
Police confirmed the pilot to be David Ibbotson from Crowle

Humberside Police confirmed on Wednesday evening that David Ibbotson, from Crowle, was the pilot of the plane carrying footballer Emiliano Sala.

A force spokesman said: "We can confirm that North Lincolnshire man David Ibbotson is believed to be the pilot of the light aircraft that went missing near Guernsey on Monday January 21.

"Specially trained officers are supporting Mr Ibbotson's family who have asked for privacy at this difficult time."

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The pair have been missing since their plane disappeared from radar over the English Channel on Monday night.

Search efforts continued today audio recording apparently sent by Sala from the aircraft, in which he can be heard saying he is ‘scared’ and on board a plane that ‘seems like it is falling to pieces’ was shared on Argentinian media. 

Mr Ibbotson, who worked as a gas engineer, was associated with skydiving company Target Skysports, based in Hibaldstow, North Lincolnshire and had extensive experience in private flights and parachute expeditions.

Police said rescue works were prioritising the possibility that the plan had landed on the water and that its like raft was used.

They later confirmed that this evening the search had been temporarily stopped.

The rescue operation has targeted an area of 280 square miles around Alderney, using multiple aircraft and one lifeboat, and took around nine hours.

John Fitzgerald, Channel Islands Air Search chief officer, said it was unlikely Sala or Ibbotson would be found alive, and said the operation was more into a recovery stage.

Sala was on his way back to Wales after saying goodbye to his Nantes team-mates on Monday night having signed a three-and-a-half-year deal to join the Bluebirds two days earlier.

According to Guernsey Police, the single turbine engine aircraft departed Nantes at 7:45pm on Monday for the Welsh capital and was flying at an altitude of 5,000ft.

On passing Guernsey it "requested descent", but Jersey air traffic control (ATC) lost contact with the plane while it was flying at 2,300ft.

Cardiff's chief executive Ken Choo described Sala as a "great person" and revealed the player had described joining the Premier League club as "one of the best days of his life".

Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri, who coached Sala at Nantes, added in a statement on Twitter: "I was devastated to hear the news. Emiliano is a wonderful character.

"He's a fighter. The world of football will be united in wishing for some positive news. I pray for Emiliano and his family."

Sala was signed by Premier League strugglers Cardiff from FC Nantes for a club record £15 million and was due to start training on Tuesday.

The 28-year-old football posted a picture with his former Nantes team-mates on Monday captioned "the last goodbye" before flying to Wales.

Cardiff's chief executive Ken Choo said the club was "shocked" and distressed" by the plane's disappearance.

A rally was held in Nantes city centre on Tuesday night where fans sang songs and laid tributes.

Clubs and players across the world took to social media to send their thoughts and prayers to the friends and family of Sala and David Ibbotson.