Emiliano Sala had ‘no concerns’ about plane before crash, inquest told

Former Cardiff City footballer Jack McKay also confirmed there had been no discussion with Sala about an alternative option for transport

Emiliano Sala had no concerns about the plane that he died in, a former Cardiff City footballer has told an inquest into his death.

The Argentina-born striker died alongside pilot David Ibbotson, 59, when the Piper Malibu aircraft crashed into the English Channel on January 21, 2019 .

On Thursday, Bournemouth Coroner’s Court heard that Scottish footballer Jack McKay, 25, called upon his father, football agent Willie McKay, to arrange the flight.

Giving evidence, Jack McKay, who now plays for York City, said he had acted as an intermediary between Sala and his father because he speaks good French.

He said Sala had been anxious to go back to Nantes to say goodbye to his teammates there before joining Cardiff City and that the Argentinian had raised no concerns about the condition of the plane following the outbound journey.

In a text message to Sala, McKay said: “My dad said if you want to go home tomorrow we can organise a plane for you to go back to Nantes and come back on Monday before training on Tuesday.”

The witness said he and Sala had exchanged small talk about how difficult it was to get to Nantes, and how he was going to get all his stuff across to the UK.

In one message, Sala asked how much the flight would cost. McKay replied: “Nothing, if you help me score more goals.”

Sala responded “Ha, ha, ha … with pleasure”, followed by: “We will score lots of goals.”

There were various messages between Jack McKay and Sala to arrange the details, including the witness asking the Argentinian to send him a copy of his passport.

McKay also dropped him off at the airport.

He contacted the player while he was in Nantes, asking him to move his planned return flight from 9pm to 7pm due to the pilot’s schedule.

McKay said he himself had never flown in the plane before, had never met the man who organised it, David Henderson, and had only spoken to pilot Mr Ibbotson in passing at the airport.

Pilot David Ibbotson and Emiliano Sala both died when the plane crashed into the English Channel

McKay also confirmed no-one had discussed with Sala alternative options for transport, including on a commercial flight.

Coroner Rachael Griffin asked: “Did he raise any concerns about going on a private plane?

“No,” he replied.

The inquest has previously heard that Sala was overcome by toxic levels of carbon monoxide prior to dying from severe head and chest injuries consistent with a plane crash.

On Wednesday, the jury was told that Mr Ibbotson - from Lincolnshire - had been barred from flying the Piper Malibu by its owner, after receiving two notices of airspace infringements from the CAA.

He had continued to pilot the plane without her knowledge.

The aircraft had left Nantes airport at 7.15pm on January 21 for the flight to Cardiff but radar contact was lost near Guernsey at 8.15pm.

The plane was located on the seabed on February 3 and Sala’s body was found in the wreckage three days later.

The inquest, which is taking place at the Town Hall in Bournemouth, is due to last around a month.