The plane carrying footballer Emiliano Sala and his pilot has been found following a sonar search – with both occupants missing and presumed dead.
The specialist search for the missing plane began off the coast of Guernsey today and located the wreckage this morning on the seabed of the English Channel.
The crowdfunded vessel – FPV Morven – picked up a sonar signal before the AAIB boat confirmed it and an ROV (Remotely operated underwater vehicle) was sent down to visually identify the plane on the seabed.
Families of both men have been informed of the discovery.
Both the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) Geo Ocean III vessel and a private boat, which includes a side-scan sonar, were used to try and find the aircraft.
Teams from the Air Accident Investigation Branch have now moved into location at the site to recover the aircraft.
It was located after radar showed that the privately funded vessel looking for the wreckage started returning to Guernsey unexpectedly while the other AAIB boat stayed at the scene.
Sky News reported that the vessel that made the discovery was lead by marine scientist David Mearns who confirmed the identity and location of the plane.
He confirmed that it was in the early stages of this morning’s search, around 9 am, that the discovery was made.
AAIB tweeted yesterday that the Geo Ocean III left Ostend in Belgium at 9 am and was due to arrive at the search area at 9 am today.
David Mearns, leading the search, told reporters that the wreckage was found at around 9 am today, meaning that it could have taken less than an hour to discover the remnants of the Piper Malibu.
Mr Mearns told Sky News: ‘This is about the best result we could have hoped for the families.
‘But tonight they have heard devastating news and in respect of the families I won’t comment any further about what has happened.’
The recovery vessel picked up something on the sonar 24 miles off Guernsey and made further passes over the area to pinpoint the location before going through various stages of identification.
David Mearns called the news ‘devastating’ but told Tom Parmenter of Sky News that ‘at least we were able to bring some sort of answer to the families.’
The scientist tweeted that it was the Morven vessel that located the wreckage and added: ‘As agreed with the AAIB they moved the GEO OCEAN III over the position we provided them to visually identify the plane by ROV. #Emiliano Sala.’
He added in a separate tweet that both families were notified by police and that a statement is expected tomorrow from AAIB.
‘Tonight our sole thoughts are with the families and friends of Emiliano and David,’ he concluded.