FOOTBALLER Emiliano Sala may have escaped from the plane carrying him after the pilot made an emergency landing in the English Channel, an aviation expert has said.
The good condition of the Piper PA-46 Malibu plane carrying Sala suggests a “ditching” rather than a loss of control, according to French journalist Michel Polacco.
The aviation specialist speculated about the cause of the crash and the fate of 28-year-old Sala in an interview with broadcaster Wendy Bouchard on French radio station Europe 1.
He suggested the pilot David Ibbotson may have been forced to land in the English Channel amid “difficult conditions” at around 7pm on January 21.
He said a technical malfunction, such as the engine freezing or stopping entirely, may have happened in mid-air while they flew from Nantes, France to Cardiff.
In a separate interview with TV channel France 3 Pays de la Loire, Polacco talked about what may have happened to Sala and Ibbertson after impact.
A search boat privately hired by Sala’s family – partly financed by crowdfunding donations – found the plane wreckage within hours of the search starting on Sunday morning.
The Air Accident Investigations Branch (AAIB) has confirmed that a body is visible inside the wreckage in footage filmed by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV).
Polacco raised the possibility that “someone managed to get out” of the light aircraft as it sank given only one body was visible in the AAIB’s ROV footage.
In contrast, aeronautical expert Juan Arturo del Azar told Argentine newspaper Clarin he believes the cause of the plane crash could be “disorientation” of the pilot.
He referenced Facebook comments in which Ibbotson admitted he was a “bit rusty” just days before the flight.
In cases of disorientation, pilots may feel that their aircraft is gaining altitude while the opposite is happening, he said.
Investigators are attempting to recover the body located in the wreckage of the plane, sunken approximately 67m underwater off the coast of Guernsey.