Wife of Emiliano Sala’s pilot speaks about report findings into crash

The wife of Emiliano Sala’s pilot said it is a ‘relief’ that a report found he was poisoned by carbon monoxide and the cause of the crash was ‘out of his control.’

David Ibbotson’s wife Nora said her husband would never have flown the doomed plane carrying the Argentinian footballer if he had known the risks.

Sala, 28, and Mr Ibbotson, 59, from Scunthorpe, were exposed to ‘potentially fatal’ amounts of the gas probably flowing into the cabin from a faulty exhaust before it plunged into the English Channel.

An interim report published by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch revealed that Sala had CO saturation levels of 58 per cent in blood taken from his dead body.

David Ibbotson’s wife Nora said her husband would never have flown the doomed plane carrying the Argentinian footballer if he had known the risks

The AAIB also confirmed they know the identity of the owner of the doomed Sala jet, but their regulations do no permit them to disclose the name.

Speaking to Good Morning Britain, Nora said after the report was published: ‘It is a relief because there was a problem.

‘It was out of David’s control. They couldn’t smell it, see it, if he knew, he wouldn’t have flown it. 

‘We have to try and stay positive. We want the results for Dave.’

David Ibbotson (pictured with wife Nora) was flying the Piper Malibu light aircraft carrying the 28-year-old Cardiff City signing but it has now been claimed he was not allowed to fly at night

The findings come months after Mr Ibbotson was widely blamed for the fatal crash in January, with it previously being revealed he was colourblind and his licence restricted him to flying in daytime hours only. 

Cardiff City’s £15million record signing from FC Nantes was found dead in the wreckage of the doomed Piper Malibu PA-46, which remains 220ft down on the seabed near the Channel’s most perilous underwater valley, known as Hurd’s Deep.

But Mr Ibbotson’s body has never been recovered after the small plane ploughed into the sea 22 miles off Guernsey.

Mrs Ibbotson, speaking from her home in Crowle, North Lincolnshire, said it was the ‘hardest thing’ not having the body.

Sala’s body was recovered from the wreckage of the plane more than 22 miles off Guernsey in early February – blood tests carried out in Britain revealed he was poisoned and the missing pilot would have been too. Mr Ibbotson’s body has never been recovered

Emiliano Sala and his pilot David Ibbotson were exposed to fatal levels of carbon monoxide in the private plane that crashed into the Channel on January 21 this year, a bombshell report by the UK’s Air Accident branch  revealed

She said: ‘It’s not having David back. We want him here.

‘Every day it is hard, because I haven’t got David, I haven’t got a body.’

The report said: ‘It is clear from the symptoms that exposure to CO can reduce or inhibit a pilot’s ability to fly an aircraft depending on the level of that exposure.’

It found the CO gas would likely have leaked from the exhaust into the cabin from ‘poor sealing or leaks in the ventilation system’.

Fans look at the flowers placed outside Cardiff City Stadium in tribute to Sala – who never played for his new club – on February 2

The AAIB did not specify who should’ve been responsible for checking the plane but said probing ‘human error’ formed an integral part of its investigation.

Dorset Police has confirmed that David Ibbotson’s friend David Henderson – the pilot who was reportedly due to fly the Piper Malibu but pulled out at the 11th hour – remains on bail after being arrested on suspicion Mr Sala and Mr Ibbotson’s manslaughter in June. 

The opening of Sala’s inquest in Dorset earlier this year heard he died of severe injuries to his head and upper body – but carbon monoxide poisoning could be the true cause of his death.

Sherry Bray and Christopher Ashford, at Swindon Crown Court on August 9, have admitted they accessed footage of Mr Sala’s post-mortem examination. They face jail

Daniel Machover, of Hickman and Rose solicitors, lawyers for 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.’

It comes after two people are facing prison after admitting they accessed footage of Sala’s postmortem examination.

Christopher Ashford, 62, and Sherry Bray, 49, admitted illegally accessing CCTV at Bournemouth Mortuary.

Both admitted three counts of securing unauthorised access to computer material.

Timeline: How the Sala tragedy unfolded over the English Channel

January 21, 2019:

The single-turbine engine Piper PA-46 Malibu leaves Nantes at 7.15pm for Cardiff and is flying at an altitude of 5,000ft. At 8.50pm the plane disappears from radar in the English Channel.

January 22:

The French civil aviation authority confirms Argentinian footballer Emiliano Sala, 28, who had just signed for Cardiff City, was on board the light aircraft. Piloting the plane was David Ibbotson, from Crowle, near Scunthorpe.

January 24:

Guernsey’s harbour master Captain David Barker says the chances Sala and Mr Ibbotson have survived is ‘extremely remote’.  

January 26:

It emerges that football agent Willie McKay arranged for the flight to take Sala to Cardiff but he says he had no involvement in selecting the plane or pilot. He also backs calls for the search to continue.

January 27:

Relatives and friends of Sala arrive in Guernsey, having enlisted the help of shipwreck hunting expert David Mearns. 

January 28:

Sala’s family, including his mother Mercedes and sister Romina, take a chartered flight in a plane operated by Guernsey airline Aurigny over the area where the plane disappeared.

January 30:

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) says two seat cushions found washed up earlier in the week near Surtainville on the Cotentin Peninsula are likely to have come from the plane carrying Sala and his pilot.

February 3:

Wreckage of the plane is located in a fresh, privately funded search which was made possible after a fundraising campaign saw more than £260,000 donated.

Feburary 4:

A body is visible in seabed video footage of the wreckage of the plane. The AAIB says the footage was filmed using an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) which was surveying the area after the plane was located.

February 6:

A body seen in the wreckage of the plane is recovered. The AAIB says the body will be taken to Portland to be passed over to the Dorset coroner for examination.

The aircraft remains 67 metres underwater 21 miles off the coast of Guernsey. The AAIB says attempts to recover the aircraft wreckage were unsuccessful and, due to continued poor weather forecast, ‘the difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close’.

February 7:

The Geo Ocean III search boat returns to dock in Portland, Dorset, carrying the wreckage of the Piper Malibu aircraft. Investigators wait to confirm if the body inside the wreckage is that of the pilot or the Argentinian footballer – and identified him using his fingerprints.

June 5: 

Two people charged over a photograph taken in a mortuary of footballer Emiliano Sala that was posted on social media. 

June 19: 

David Henderson, 64, from York, arrested on suspicion of manslaughter by an unlawful act. He was later released under investigation.

August 14:

An interim report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch reveals tests on Sala’s body have found enough evidence of carbon monoxide to cause a heart attack, seizure or unconsciousness

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