A body discovered from plane wreckage in the English Channel has been identified as 28-year-old Argentinian soccer player Emiliano Sala.
The Dorset Police confirmed Thursday that Sala, who was in the process of completing a transfer from FC Nantes to Cardiff City FC, had been identified by HM Coroner nearly three weeks after his plane went missing after departing from Nantes, France.
“The families of Mr Sala and the pilot David Ibbotson have been updated with this news and will continue to be supported by specially-trained family liaison officers. Our thoughts remain with them at this difficult time,” Dorset Police wrote.
Following the news that Sala had been identified, Cardiff City Football Club, the team Sala had signed with just days before the crash, issued a statement.
“We offer our most heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family of Emiliano,” they wrote. “He and David will forever remain in our thoughts.”
His former teammates at Nantes Football Club paid tribute to Sala during their first home game since the striker was confirmed to have died in the crash, the team wearing black shirts with the name 'Sala' on the back, according to The Guardian.
Sala had been traveling from Nantes, France, to Cardiff, Wales, where he was set to debut as Cardiff’s record $19 million signing, when it disappeared from radar over the English Channel on Monday, Jan. 21. At one point in the flight, Sala sent an audio message in Spanish to his friends.
“I am now aboard a plane that seems like it is falling to pieces," he said, according to TMZ. “I'm going to Cardiff now, crazy, and tomorrow we get going. I will train with my new team tomorrow."
"If you do not have any more news from [me] in an hour and a half, I don't know if they need to send someone to find me. I am getting scared,” the message ended.
After the Piper Malibu N264DB disappeared from radar, air traffic control alerted Her Majesty’s Coastguard at 8:23 p.m. local time, prompting a massive search that was hindered by bad weather. The official search was called off just three days later, but a private search, funded by Sala’s friends and family, was launched on Jan. 27, and wreckage was found 21 miles off the coast of the island of Guernsey on Sunday, Feb. 3.
While Sala has been identified, investigators have not yet found David Ibbotson, who was piloting the plane.