Emiliano Sala crash trial: Aircraft operator found guilty at trial


CARDIFF, Wales — The businessman who organized the flight that resulted in the death of Argentine soccer player Emiliano Sala was found guilty on Thursday of endangering the safety of an aircraft.

Sala died after the single-engine Piper Malibu aircraft in which he was traveling crashed in the English Channel on Jan. 21, 2019. Sala, who had played for French club Nantes, was traveling to join his new team, Cardiff, in Wales. The body of the pilot, David Ibbotson, was never recovered.

David Henderson, the aircraft operator who arranged the flight, had asked Ibbotson to fly the plane as he was away on holiday. Ibbotson, who regularly flew for Henderson, did not hold a commercial pilot’s license or a qualification to fly at night, and his rating to fly the Piper Malibu had expired.

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The 67-year-old Henderson was convicted by a jury at Cardiff Crown Court by a majority verdict of 10-2.

The jury heard how just moments after finding out the plane had gone down, Henderson sent text messages to a number of people telling them to stay silent, warning it would “open a can of worms.” He said in court he had feared an investigation into his business dealings.

Prosecutor Martin Goudie said Henderson had been “reckless or negligent” in the way he operated the plane, putting his business above the safety of passengers. Goudie said Henderson had created a culture of breaching the air-navigation regulations among the pilots he hired.

Defense attorney Stephen Spence said his client’s actions were “purely a paperwork issue” and had not led to a likelihood of danger. Spence said Henderson knew Ibbotson, who had been flying for decades and had accumulated around 3,500 flying miles, was an experienced pilot.

Henderson had previously admitted to a separate offense of attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorization.

He was granted bail to return to be sentenced for both offenses on Nov. 12.

Mbappe asks to share Golden Boot honor after technicality

Kylian Mbappe
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Kylian Mbappe has asked to share the Ligue 1 Golden Boot with French national teammate Wissam Ben Yedder.

PSG’s World Cup winner scored the same amount of goals as his Monaco compatriot, but was awarded the Golden Boot for the league’s truncated 2019-20 season.

Mbappe was given the honor in a tiebreaker due to all of his 18 goals coming from open play.

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He also had one more assist and did the damage in 657 less minutes, but doesn’t feel right about taking home the award. Monaco played one more match than PSG to boot.

Mbappe would like to see a second award given to Ben Yedder, though the grateful Monaco man said he’d be happy to share custody.

The 21-year-old has shown class on and off the pitch, helping to fund the search for the missing pilot from the crash that killed Emiliano Sala and also donating his World Cup winnings to charity.

Report on Sala death concludes pilot, plane unqualified to fly

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The Air Accidents Investigation Branch published its year-long investigation into the crash that killed footballer Emiliano Sala in January of 2019.

In the report, the Branch determined that the pilot, David Ibbotson, who also died in the crash, was not licensed to fly commercially despite expecting to be paid for the trip and his rating for the particular aircraft, a single-engine Piper Malibu N264DB, had expired. In addition, the report added that Ibbotson was not qualified to fly at night. “Neither the plane nor the pilot had the required licenses or permissions to operate commercially,” the report concluded.

“This flight was clearly an illegal charter, something we’ve said for a long time needs to stop,” said Dave Edwards, chief executive of the Air Charter Association on the report. “I think what’s most sad is that there were probably about seven opportunities throughout the sequence where this flight could have stopped, and in a commercial environment it would have stopped, but in this case it just carried on through those levels until the ultimate moment of impact. Everything that could go wrong sadly did go wrong.”

In addition, the report found numerous faults with the aircraft. There was carbon monoxide leaking into the cabin from the plane’s heating system as well as a faulty autopilot that should have been labeled “inoperative.” The carbon monoxide was a significant contributing factor to the crash, as the report stated that tests on Sala’s blood concluded it contained enough carbon monoxide to cause seizure, heart attack or unconsciousness, concluding that Ibbotson likely was suffering from exposure as well, which would have significantly hampered his ability to fly safely.

“The pathologist considered he [Sala] would almost certainly have been deeply unconscious at impact,” the report states. However, the report does conclude that Ibbotson was conscious and attempting to fly the plane at the moment of impact into the English Channel.

Sala also reportedly voiced his concerns about the aircraft moments before takeoff, saying in a voice message to friends in Argentina, “I’m in a plane that seems to be falling apart,” before adding, “I’m scared.”

Sala was flying from Nantes, France to Cardiff to complete a transfer from Ligue 1 side Nantes to then-Premier League club Cardiff City.

Nantes pays tribute to the late Sala with special jersey


NANTES, France — French club Nantes will pay tribute to late Argentine player Emiliano Sala by wearing a special blue and white shirt during Sunday’s league game gainst Bordeaux.

Nantes, which traditionally plays in yellow and green, said Tuesday that the commemorative outfit is available for sale. All profits from the sales will be allocated to Sala’s training clubs in Argentina.

“Because he dreamed of wearing Argentina’s shirt, Nantes players will leave their usual yellow and green jersey for a white and blue tunic,” Nantes said in a statement.

Sala was killed a year ago when the single-engine aircraft carrying him from Nantes to his new club in Cardiff crashed near the Channel Island of Guernsey on Jan. 21. Hours earlier, FIFA had received an online document from the Welsh soccer federation to complete transferring the player’s registration from France.

Sala’s body was recovered from the wreckage two weeks later.

Nantes said a picture of Sala will also be displayed in the center circle at Stade de La Beaujoire and a minute’s applause will be held in his memory.

Since Sala’s death, Nantes and Cardiff have been involved in a dispute over transfer fee payments. Last year, Cardiff filed a court appeal seeking to overturn a FIFA order it must pay Nantes a 6 million euro ($6.7 million) first payment for Sala. FIFA ruled in favor of Nantes and warned Cardiff it faces a transfer ban of three trading windows if it refuses to pay when the case is settled.

Cardiff City parts ways with Neil Warnock

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Cardiff City has fired manager Neil Warnock with the 70-year-old boss in his fourth season with the club.

The Bluebirds sit 14th in the Championship table, on a six-match run that features just a single win.

Warnock’s tenure at Cardiff City featured promotion from the Championship in 2017/18 via a second-place finish in the league table. It wouldn’t last long, as they were relegated the next year, finishing 18th, two points back of Brighton Hove & Albion in safety.

“I am leaving my beloved Bluebirds after over three years of which have been some of the best days in my long football career,” Warnock said, with the club officially stating the decision came via mutual consent. “It is a shared belief that this is the right time for a new voice as we believe this squad of players is more than capable of getting success.”

“On behalf of Cardiff City Football Club, I thank Neil for his invaluable contribution to the future of this great Club,” said Cardiff City FC Chairman Mehmet Dalman in a club statement. “He not only gained promotion in his first season but played a pivotal role in uniting the fans and the club. I am personally upset by his departure and wish him the very best for the future.”

At 70 years old and completing his 17th managerial stint with 15 different clubs, it is possible that Warnock’s managerial career is complete. The Sheffield-born former Barnsley player, who turns 71 in less than a month, has taken charge of 112 Premier League games and overseen a record eight promotion campaigns in his career to date.

At Cardiff, Warnock took charge of 144 matches total, with 59 wins. He was in the position for the death of Emiliano Sala, which he called “by far the most difficult week of my career.”