1. ITV Report

Search for missing plane carrying Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala called off, as family plead for them to continue

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies

The search for the missing plane carrying Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala and pilot Dave Ibbotson has been called off but the footballer's family have pleaded with authorities to carry on.

Habour Master Captain David Baker said on Thursday afternoon that the "difficult decision" to end the operation was take after searching 1,700sq miles since the aircraft disappeared on Monday night.

Romina Sala spoke in Cardiff on Thursday. Credit: PA

The Harbour Master said at a press conference that Sala's family were not happy at the decision to conclude the search.

Sala's sister Romina, who is now in Cardiff, said: “Emiliano is a great fighter - I know he hasn’t given up and he is waiting for us.

“We just want that the search continues.

"I know in my heart Emiliano is still alive somewhere in the Channel Islands.

"At the moment, the only thing we want is the whereabouts of the two people. Questions of how Emiliano came about his fate are the matter of another moment.

"The idea is to go to the search place to try to push forward this search, not to stop. The only thing I want is to see my brother, to find my brother.

"My message is do not stop the search. I am grateful for everything that has been done, but I beg that they don't stop with the search, please."

It was agreed by those searching that the "chances of survival at this stage are extremely remote".

Pilot Dave Ibbotson. Credit: Facebook

Argentinian striker Sala only joined Cardiff on Saturday for a club-record fee from Nantes.

He was travelling, along with Mr Ibbotson from France to Cardiff, having visited his former club Nantes to say goodbye.

According to Guernsey Police, the single turbine engine aircraft departed Nantes at 1915 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 lost contact with the plane while it was flying at 2,300ft.

There has been more than 24 hours of continuous searching, with 80 hours combined flying time across three planes and five helicopters.

Two lifeboats were also involved and help was provided by passing ships and fishing boats.