Seat cushions likely to have come from the plane carrying missing Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala have been found, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said on Wednesday.
The cushions were discovered Monday on a beach in France near Surtainville on the Cotentin Peninsula by French authorities.
Sala, 28, remains missing after an aircraft carrying him vanished from radar on the way from France to Wales on Jan. 22. Resuers ended their search for the forward and pilot David Ibbotson three days later.
Guernsey harbour master David Barker said at the time the chances of finding survivors was “extremely remote,” and in a statement, he said next of kin had been informed of the decision to end the search. Following a crowdfunding campaign, the search for the pair was reopened on Jan. 27
Investigators from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said: “From a preliminary examination we have concluded that it is likely that the cushions are from the missing aircraft.”
An AAIB spokesman said: “Based on a detailed assessment of the flight path and last known radar position, we have now identified a priority search area of approximately four square nautical miles.
“Through the Ministry of Defence’s Salvage and Marine Operations (SALMO) Project Team, we have commissioned a specialist survey vessel to carry out an underwater survey of the seabed to try to locate and identify possible aircraft wreckage.
“Since we opened our safety investigation on Tuesday 23 January, we have been gathering evidence such as flight, aircraft and personnel records, and have been analysing radar data and air traffic tapes. We have been working closely with other international authorities and have kept the families of those involved updated on our progress.”
Cardiff and Arsenal paid tribute to Sala ahead of their match at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.
After the match, which Arsenal won 2-1, Cardiff defender Sol Bamba said some of the team’s players were afraid to fly following the disappearance of record-signing Sala.
“It is very difficult to even describe,” Bamba said. “It is very unusual, a big tragedy. We have all been affected by it, the lads, the city, the whole club.
“I think we needed something like this, the game, to get underway so we’re back as normal, if I can say But it was a very difficult week.
“We travel … by plane, and some of the lads have been thinking, ‘I don’t want to go on it anymore.’ It was that deep.”