Emiliano Sala: Carbon monoxide found in footballer’s body 'raises questions' over plane crash

14 August 2019, 14:06 | Updated: 14 August 2019, 21:21

Footballer Emiliano Sala and his pilot were exposed to harmful levels of carbon monoxide inside the cockpit of their private plane before it crashed into the Channel in January, air accident investigators have said.

The plane went down on 21 January off the coast of Guernsey, killing Sala and pilot David Ibbotson.

Toxicology tests performed on Sala showed a carboxyhaemoglobin (a mixture of carbon monoxide and haemoglobin) saturation level of 58%.

According to investigators, anything over 50% is considered to be "potentially fatal" and could trigger a heart attack, seizure or unconsciousness.

They assumed that the pilot, whose body has not been found, would also have been affected by exposure to the gas.

Mr Ibbotson's widow, Nora, exclusively told Sky News on Wednesday the thought carbon monoxide could have been behind the deaths had "never even occurred to me".

She said: "This has just come out the blue, it's a massive shock, I just didn't realise that that would have happened or could have happened.

"It makes a big difference because they've been poisoned, they have no idea it's a lethal gas.

"You can't smell it, you can't see it. It's lethal, they wouldn't have known.

"So it's nothing to do with the flying or anything like that, it's down to the aircraft. "

Mrs Ibbotson added: "The answers will come out in the end. I've waited this long, and I'll have to wait.

"It's not going to change my situation, I've lost a husband, a father, a grandfather. Nothing can repay that, and change it."

The team of investigators are now working with the aircraft manufacturers and the US National Transportation Safety Board to identify possible ways that carbon monoxide might have entered the aircraft's cabin.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) added: "Work is also continuing to investigate pertinent operational, technical, organisational and human factors which might have contributed to the accident."

Sala's family have called for the plane's wreckage to be salvaged from the Channel.

In a statement released through their lawyer, the Sala family said: "That dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide have been found in Emiliano's body raises many questions for the family.

"How he died will be determined at the inquest in due course.

"The family believe that a detailed technical examination of the plane is necessary.

"The family and the public need to know how the carbon monoxide was able to enter the cabin. Future air safety rests on knowing as much as possible on this issue.

"Emiliano's family call on the AAIB to salvage the wreckage of the plane without further delay."

A spokesman for Cardiff City said it was "concerned" at the latest report, claiming it "highlights that the aircraft used for Emiliano Sala was not appropriate".

"We continue to believe that those who were instrumental in arranging its usage are held to account for this tragedy," they added.

The wreckage of the plane was located on 3 February, and a body was identified as that of the Argentinian footballer.

Sala had signed for Cardiff City from French club Nantes in January for £15m on 18 January.

David Ibbotson, a 59-year-old from north Lincolnshire, flew Sala from Cardiff to Nantes the following day, but the return flight crashed three days later.

The aircraft remains underwater off the coast of Guernsey after an attempt to recover it was hampered by bad weather.