Emiliano Sala told Cardiff City footballer he had no concerns about private plane, inquest hears 


Emiliano Sala told a Cardiff City footballer he had no concerns about flying in a private plane that crashed into the Channel, an inquest has heard. 

The Argentina-born striker died alongside pilot David Ibbotson, 59, when the Piper Malibu aircraft crashed into the sea on January 21, 2019.

The 28-year-old had been flying to Wales from France to join Premier League club Cardiff City in a £15 million transfer from Ligue 1 side Nantes.

On Thursday, Bournemouth Coroner’s Court heard that Scottish footballer Jack McKay, 25, called upon his father, football agent Willie McKay, to arrange the flight.

Giving evidence, Jack McKay, who now plays for York City, said he had acted as an intermediary between Sala and his father because he speaks good French.

He said Sala had been anxious to go back to Nantes to say goodbye to his teammates there and collect his belongings before his first training session at Cardiff City.

He said the Argentinian player had raised no concerns about the condition of the plane following the outbound journey.

Emiliano Sala (pictured) died alongside pilot David Ibbotson, 59, when the Piper Malibu aircraft crashed into the sea on January 21, 2019

Scottish footballer Jack McKay (pictured), 25, called upon his father, football agent Willie McKay, to arrange the flight and today told an inquest Sala had raised no concerns about the condition of the plane following the outbound journey

Scottish footballer Jack McKay (pictured), 25, called upon his father, football agent Willie McKay, to arrange the flight and today told an inquest Sala had raised no concerns about the condition of the plane following the outbound journey

In a text message to Sala, Mr McKay said: ‘My dad said if you want to go home tomorrow we can organise a plane for you to go back to Nantes and come back on Monday before training on Tuesday.’

Mr McKay, who was on Cardiff City’s books during the 2018-19 season but made no appearances, said he and Sala had exchanged small talk about how difficult it was to get to Nantes, and how he was going to get all his stuff across to the UK.

In one message, Sala asked how much the flight would cost.

Mr McKay replied: ‘Nothing, if you help me score more goals.’

Sala responded ‘Ha, ha, ha … with pleasure’, followed by ‘We will score lots of goals.’

Mr McKay said he knew his father would not offer to do someone a favour and then ask them to pay for it.

Mr Mckay's father, football agent Willie McKay, arranged the flight to take Sala from France to Wales to join Cardiff City

Mr Mckay’s father, football agent Willie McKay, arranged the flight to take Sala from France to Wales to join Cardiff City

The inquest heard there were various messages between Mr McKay and Sala to arrange the details, including the witness asking the Argentinian to send him a copy of his passport.

Mr McKay also dropped him off at the airport.

He contacted the player while he was in Nantes, the inquest was told, asking him to move his planned return flight from 9pm to 7pm due to the pilot’s schedule.

Sala asked him if it was possible to leave at 7.30pm.

Mr McKay said he himself had never flown in the plane before, had never met the man who organised it, David Henderson, and had only spoken to pilot Mr Ibbotson in passing at the airport.

Mr McKay said no-one had discussed alternative options for transport, including a commercial flight, with Sala.

Coroner Rachael Griffin asked: ‘Did he raise any concerns about going on a private plane?

Pilot David Ibbetson also died in the crash. His body has never been found

Pilot David Ibbetson also died in the crash. His body has never been found

‘No,’ he replied.

Mr McKay also said Sala had not raised any concerns about the condition of the aircraft following the outbound flight.

The inquest has previously heard that Sala was overcome by toxic levels of carbon monoxide prior to dying from severe head and chest injuries consistent with a plane crash.

On Wednesday, the jury was told Mr Ibbotson had been barred from flying the Piper Malibu by its owner, after receiving two notices of airspace infringements from the CAA.

He had continued to pilot the plane without her knowledge.

The aircraft left Nantes airport at 7.15pm on January 21 for the flight to Cardiff but radar contact was lost near Guernsey at 8.15pm.

The plane was located on the seabed on February 3 and Sala’s body was found in the wreckage three days later. 

Mr Ibbotson’s body has never been found 

The jury inquest, which is taking place at the Town Hall in Bournemouth, is due to last around a month. 



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