By PA Media
Last Updated: 14/08/19 2:52pm
Footballer Emiliano Sala and his pilot David Ibbotson were exposed to harmful levels of carbon monoxide in the cockpit of their private plane when it crashed in the English Channel on January 21, the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) said.
Tests on the striker’s body found enough evidence of the harmful gas to cause a heart attack, seizure or unconsciousness, an interim report by the AAIB stated.
It is likely that Mr Ibbotson was also “affected to some extent” by exposure to carbon monoxide, the document added.
The AAIB said the gas can “reduce or inhibit a pilot’s ability to fly an aircraft depending on the level of that exposure”.
Argentine footballer Sala signed for Cardiff City from French club Nantes for £15m on January 18.
Mr Ibbotson, 59, of Crowle, Lincolnshire flew Sala from Cardiff to Nantes in a Piper Malibu aircraft the following day.
The return flight – which crashed in the Channel – was on January 21.
The AAIB said it was working with the aircraft and engine manufacturers and the National Transportation Safety Board in the US “to identify possible pathways through which CO might enter the cabin of this type of aircraft.
“Work is also continuing to investigate pertinent operational, technical, organisational and human factors which might have contributed to the accident.”
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.”