French football

Emiliano Sala: Pilot stands trial over crash between Nantes and Cardiff

Emiliano Sala died along with the pilot when their plane crashed into the English Channel in January 2019. The 28-year-old Argentine had just concluded a transfer from Nantes to the then English Premier League side Cardiff City.
Emiliano Sala died along with the pilot when their plane crashed into the English Channel in January 2019. The 28-year-old Argentine had just concluded a transfer from Nantes to the then English Premier League side Cardiff City. LOIC VENANCE AFP

A man who should have been at the controls of a plane carrying the footballer Emiliano Sala between Nantes and Cardiff in 2019 appeared in court on Monday accused of shirking his responsibilities.

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David Henderson’s name appeared on the flight plan for the voyage between France and Wales but he claims that he had to withdraw at the last minute due to a family emergency.

His place was taken by 59-year-old David Ibbotson who died along with Sala when the single engine Piper PA-46 Malibu crashed into the sea near the English Channel Island of Guernsey on 21 January.

Sala’s body was recovered a month later. Ibbotson’s body has not been found.

Henderson, 67, from Yorkshire in northern England, initially denied one charge of acting in a reckless or negligent manner likely to endanger the plane Sala was travelling in.

He also pleaded not guilty to attempting to discharge a passenger - Sala - without valid permission or authorisation.

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But during early exchanges at Cardiff crown court on Monday, Henderson pleaded guilty to the second charge. 

A jury of seven men and five women was then sworn in at the court to decide whether Henderson acted negligently.

The charges against him have been brought by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Sala had travelled to Wales to conclude his 17 million euro transfer to Cardiff City who were then in the English Premier League. 

The 28-year-old returned to France to collect his belongings and say farewell to his Nantes teammates. He died on the voyage back to start his Premier League career.

Sala's remains were repatriated in February 2019 to Argentina.

Vahid Halilhodzic, his coach at Nantes, said of the player: “I have rarely seen someone so endearing, humble and modest … but on the pitch, he was a warrior.”

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