Police suspended the search for a light aircraft carrying Cardiff’s Emiliano Sala on Tuesday night and said hopes for survival of those on board are “slim” before resuming their search at 7.30 a.m. GMT on Wednesday morning.
Both French and British maritime authorities spent Tuesday searching near the island of Guernsey for the plane.
“During the course of the 15-hour search, which used multiple air and sea assets from the Channel Islands, UK and France, a number of floating objects have been seen in the water. We have been unable to confirm whether any of these are from the missing aircraft,” the statement read.
“We have found no signs of those on board. If they did land on the water, the chances of survival are at this stage, unfortunately, slim.”
Guernsey police gave a further update on Wednesday morning.
“There are currently three planes and one helicopter in the air,” a statement said. “We are also reviewing satellite imagery and mobile phone data to see if they can be of any assistance in the search. So far today nothing spotted can be attributed to the missing plane.”
Chief Officer of Channel Island Air Search John Fitzgerald said on Sky Sports News that he believes the aircraft broke apart upon hitting the water. But in a message to reporters, he echoed the Guernsey police statement that the debris found could not yet be confirmed as parts of Sala’s plane.
“Debris was seen from the aircraft west of Alderney and the lifeboat has been sent to check this out, but at the moment we can’t confirm that these are parts from the aircraft until they have been collected and identified,” Fitzgerald said.
Sala, 28, an Argentine striker who signed with Cardiff City for £18 million, was flying from the French city of Nantes to Cardiff when the plane lost radar contact off Guernsey late on Monday.
Rescue aircraft and boats scoured more than 1,000 square miles of sea for the single-engine Piper Malibu on Tuesday.
Cardiff called off training upon hearing the news on Tuesday and club CEO Ken Choo said: “We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing. We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team.
“Our owner, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, and chairman, Mehmet Dalman, are all very distressed about the situation.
“All of us at Cardiff City FC would like to thank our fans and the entire footballing family for their support at this difficult time.
“We continue to pray for positive news.”
Sala’s father, Horacio Sala, addressed media gathered outside the family home in Progreso, Argentina and said he is “beginning to think the worst.”
He said: “I don’t know what to think. … The hours pass and I am just beginning to think the worst.”
He added: “We were in touch on Sunday. He was so happy that he was going there, to an even bigger club.”
Nantes’ French Cup last-32 game against Entente Sannois-Saint Gratien, originally set for Wednesday, was postponed until Sunday. Nantes is Sala’s former club.
“I’m thinking of his friends, his family. I’m still hopeful, he’s a fighter. It’s not over, he’s perhaps somewhere. While waiting for news that we hope will be positive, we’re very touched by all the support we have received since this morning,” Nantes president Waldemar Kita said.
Cardiff’s next Premier League game is at Arsenal on Jan. 29 but chairman Dalman said there are no plans at present to re-arrange the match.
“I would be very surprised if there’s any change to the schedule,” Dalman said.
Nantes fans held a vigil at the Place Royale in Nantes as a mark of support.
Sala tweeted his farewell to Nantes on Monday, along with a picture with his former colleagues.
Sala first arrived in France in 2010 when his potential was spotted by Bordeaux, who had him on their books for five years. He spent three spells out on loan, including half a season at Caen that convinced Nantes to sign him in summer 2015. He scored 36 times in 89 top-flight games for Les Canaris, including 12 this season, before signing for Cardiff.
Information from Reuters, The Associated Press, Ian Holyman and Aramide Oladipo contributed to this report.