A body recovered from the submerged wreckage of a plane that went down in the English Channel more than two weeks ago has been identified as that of footballer Emiliano Sala, CEOAfrica learnt.
Recall that a light aircraft was carrying the 28-year-old footballer from France to his new Premier League team Cardiff City, when it disappeared near the British island of Guernsey, along with 59-year-old pilot David Ibbotson.
Argentinian footballing idols Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta were among the first to pay tribute to the talented young player, who hailed from the South American country.
The striker’s body was spotted by British rescuers using a remotely operated underwater vehicle on Sunday close to where the plane vanished from radar on January 21.
His body was recovered on Wednesday and brought to the Isle of Portland in southern England for formal identification on Thursday by coroners, who investigate deaths in Britain.
“The body brought to Portland Port today has been formally identified… as that of professional footballer Emiliano Sala,” police in Dorset, the county where the body was taken, said on Twitter.
“The families of Mr Sala and pilot David Ibbotson have been updated. Our thoughts remain with them all,” police said.
– ‘Rest in peace warrior’ –
Sala’s disappearance sparked an outpouring of grief and a flood of cash to support a private hunt for the plane when the official search was initially called off.
“I am very sorry about this sad news. Many of us kept a glimmer of hope for you, Emiliano,” footballing superstar Maradona said on Instagram, after the identification of the body.
“What sadness, this is the worst news. Rest in peace warrior,” tweeted retired Argentinian football star Gabriel Batistuta.
The country’s President Mauricio Macri also offered his condolences to Sala’s family following the “painful news”. “We are with you,” he added.
The small Argentinian town of Progreso, where the footballer lived for most of his childhood, was left “very affected”.
“Since we found out, it’s all anyone can talk about,” said local restaurant owner Oscar Heymo, a friend of Sala’s father Horacio. “He was very much loved and admired by all.”