A body retrieved from the wreckage of a plane that crashed in the English Channel has been positively identified as Argentine soccer player Emiliano Sala, police in the United Kingdom said Thursday.
"The body brought to Portland Port today, Thursday 7 February 2019, has been formally identified by HM Coroner for Dorset as that of professional footballer Emiliano Sala," police in that region of southwestern England said.
"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," Dorset Police said on Twitter.
Sala and Ibbotson were the only two occupants of the aircraft that lost contact with air traffic controllers some 24km (15mi) north of the Channel Island of Guernsey at 8.23 pm on Jan. 21.
The player was traveling from the French city of Nantes, where he had bid a final farewell to former teammates at FC Nantes, to Cardiff in south Wales, where he was to begin a new stage of his career as a member of the city's Premier League side.
Authorities had suspended the search for the plane, but the effort resumed last Sunday after two seat cushions thought to be from the aircraft washed up on a beach near Surtainville, a town on the Cotentin Peninsula in the northern French region of Normandy.
The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) enlisted the help of private ocean rescue company Blue Water Recoveries, headed by American marine scientist David Mearns, whose research boat identified the wreckage of the aircraft on the seabed soon after the search was relaunched.
A remotely operated vehicle deployed by a separate survey vessel commissioned by the AAIB captured images showing the body of an occupant in the wreckage.
The AAIB said that attempts to recover the wreckage of the Piper PA-46 Malibu had been unsuccessful given unfavorable weather conditions and that further attempts to resurface the plane would not be made.
"In challenging conditions, the AAIB and its specialist contractors successfully recovered the body previously seen amidst the wreckage," the agency said. "The operation was carried out in as dignified a way as possible and the families were kept informed of progress."
"Although it was not possible to recover the aircraft, the extensive video record captured by the is expected to provide valuable evidence for our safety investigation," the statement added.
Cardiff City FC forked out a club record 15 million pounds ($19m) for the 28-year-old Sala, who had impressed during the first half of the season with the Ligue 1 side.
On Wednesday, UK media featured unconfirmed reports that FC Nantes had started legal action demanding Cardiff City release the first tranche of the transfer fee for the missing forward, but that the Bluebirds wanted to wait until the recovery operation was complete.
Just after the plane disappeared, Argentine media obtained a WhatsApp voice recording apparently sent by the missing striker to his family while in the plane in which he suggested it was unsafe.
"I'm here on a plane that looks like it's about to fall apart and I'm going to Cardiff; crazy, tomorrow we already start, and in the afternoon we start training, boys, in my new team," he said in a laid-back tone.