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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Man goes on trial over plane death of footballer Sala

Emiliano Sala

A man charged in connection with the death of Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala in a light aircraft crash in 2019 will go on trial in Cardiff on Monday.

David Henderson was charged last year for endangering the safety of an aircraft and attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorisation.

Henderson, who denies the charges, is alleged to have arranged the flight to bring the former Nantes striker from France to Cardiff, where he was due to begin training with the Welsh club, which was then in the Premier League.

David Henderson

The plane crashed into the sea near the Channel island of Guernsey, killing Sala, 28, and pilot David Ibbotson.

At a previous court hearing, it was alleged that Ibbotson was not licensed to fly an aircraft commercially and that he was no longer certified to fly the Piper Malibu aircraft involved.

Sala had become Cardiff’s record signing after a fee of £15 million ($19 million) was agreed with Nantes during the January transfer window.

After travelling to Cardiff to complete the deal, Sala returned to France to collect belongings and bid farewell to his Nantes teammates.

Emiliano Sala

It was on his return flight to the Welsh capital on January 21, to take part in his first training session, that the tragedy occurred.

Initial search operations for the player and pilot were suspended in the days after the single-engine plane went missing.

However, a crowd-funding effort supported by thousands of donations, including from football stars such as Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe, helped launch a private search.

That search saw Sala’s body recovered from the wreckage in February 2019, but Ibbotson’s body has not been found.

Two months after Sala’s body was discovered, his father Horacio Sala died of a heart attack in Argentina.

British air accident investigators in March 2020 concluded that Ibbotson was not licensed to fly the plane or to fly at night and that he lost control and flew too fast as he tried to avoid bad weather.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch said both the pilot and Sala were affected by carbon monoxide poisoning before the crash.

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