PETALING JAYA: Two seat cushions, likely to have to come from the plane carrying missing Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala, have washed up on a beach in France.
The aircraft flown by pilot David Ibbotson, which was headed to Cardiff from Nantes, had vanished "without trace" over the English Channel and search efforts were called off last Thursday (Jan 25).
However, the Bureau d'Enquetes & d'Analyses, (BQA), the French safety investigation authority, advised the United Kingdom's Air Accidents Investigations Branch (AAIB) of their find near Surainville on the Cotentin Peninsula on Monday morning (Jan 28).
In an update on Jan 30, the AAIB said they have concluded from a preliminary examination that it is likely that the cushions are from the missing aircraft.
"From the moment we were notified of the missing aircraft, we have been looking at the feasibility of conducting an underwater seabed search for aircraft wreckage," they added.
A priority search area of approximately four square nautical miles has been identified, based on a detailed assessment of the flight path and last known radar position.
The British investigators have commissioned a specialist survey vessel to carry out an underwater survey of the seabed to try to locate and identify possible aircraft wreckage, through the Defence Ministry's Salvage and Marine Operations Project Team
"Due to the weather and sea conditions, we currently expect our underwater seabed search to start at the end of this weekend and to take up to three days.
"Side-scan sonar equipment will be used to try to locate the wreckage on the seabed. If the wreckage is found, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) will be used to visually examine the wreckage," said the AAIB.
They also stated their awareness of a privately operated search being conducted in the area, and are liasing closely with those involved to maximise the chance of locating any wreckage and ensure a safe search operation.
"Our remit is to undertake safety investigations to establish the cause of accidents. We do not apportion blame or liability," concluded the update on their official site.
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