105316811 21714b86 0905 4eba bb01 a0585c15f30c - Emiliano Sala's family view search area off Guernsey
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Emiliano Sala's family view search area off Guernsey

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Getty Images/David Ibbotson

Image caption

Emiliano Sala (left) was on board a plane being flown by pilot David Ibbotson (right)

The family of missing Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala have been taken on a plane to see the area that rescuers have been searching.

They left Guernsey Airport at about 09:30 GMT on a chartered flight with harbourmaster David Barker.

Sala’s sister Romina and mother Mercedes arrived on the island on Sunday and a family spokesman said they were struggling for answers.

Fundraisers have paid for a private search in the English Channel.

An official search for Sala and pilot David Ibbotson, of Crowle, Lincolnshire, was called off on Thursday, with Guernsey’s harbourmaster saying the chance of them being alive was “extremely remote”.

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ITN

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The family’s flight leaving Guernsey Airport

But, after a plea from his sister not to give up, more than £290,000 was raised for a private search to continue – which is being led by David Mearns, said to be a renowned shipwreck hunter.

High-profile donors to the GoFundMe page include France and PSG forward Kylian Mbappe, former West Ham midfielder Dimitri Payet and Leicester City winger Demarai Gray.

More than 4,000 people have donated to the page.

Argentine striker Sala signed for the Bluebirds from Nantes on Saturday, 19 January and was flying back to Wales from France when the plane disappeared from radar last Monday evening.

At 19:15 GMT, Mr Ibbotson made a request to descend before losing contact with Jersey air traffic control.

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Emiliano Sala was on board a plane bound for Cardiff from Nantes when it disappeared from radar

David Mearns, acting as a spokesman for the Sala family, said they had travelled to Guernsey to be near where the plane was last located and to find out about the investigation and what happens next.

He said: “This is a family that has come from Argentina with this huge shock out of nowhere and is struggling with very, very few answers about an unexplained loss.”

He added the family “still have some hope”, saying: “They’re looking at this as a missing person, a missing plane and until they are satisfied that’s the mode that we are in.”

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Romina Sala visited Cardiff last week and said she believes both Emiliano and the pilot are alive

Mr Mearns said the private search would entail “more investigative technical searches underwater” at some point.

The family have also thanked donors for their “exceptional generosity” after money was raised to pay for a private search.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has begun an investigation which will look at “all operational aspects,” including licensing and flight plans.

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