It is with a heavy heart that I must tell you that the search and rescue operation for Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson has been called off. The decision was made by police and rescuers at 3:15 this afternoon.

The search and rescue operation had covered over 1,700 square miles, but no sign of the plane or any survivors had been found. After the decision was made, the following statement was released by Harbourmaster Captain David Barker.

My team have just met to review the search and rescue operation which has been underway since the plane disappeared on Monday night.

Despite the best efforts of air and search assets from the Channel Islands, UK and France, which has covered an area of approximately 1,700 square miles – with a significant amount of this searched more than once – and having examined mobile phone data and satellite imagery, we have been unable to find any trace of the aircraft, the pilot or the passenger.

There has been over 24 hours of continuous searching, with 80 hours combined flying time across three planes and five helicopters.

Two lifeboats have also been involved, as well as assistance from various passing ships and fishing boats.

We reviewed all the information available to us, as well as knowing what emergency equipment was on board, and have taken the difficult decision to end the search.

The chances of survival at this stage are extremely remote.

Next of kin have been informed of this development, and my thoughts go out to the family of the pilot and passenger at this most difficult of times.

This has been a very thorough and extensive search, co-ordinated from the Guernsey-based Joint Emergency Services Control Centre and has seen exemplary co-operation from all countries involved, for which I would like to extend my personal thanks.

The final aircraft searching for the missing plane and those on board has now landed.

Although we are no longer actively searching, the incident remains open and we will be broadcasting to all vessels and aircraft in the area to keep a lookout for any trace of the aircraft. This will continue indefinitely.

His sister Romina Sala and his former Nantes team-mates have since pleaded with police and rescuers to not call off the search for missing Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson, saying that he is a fighter and could still be alive.

The above tweet by Florian Thauvin roughly translates to “For Sala, for his family and loved ones, research cannot stop! We need to encourage the police to continue the research! Sala is a warrior, you have to believe in him!”

This tweet by his former team-mate translates to: “We must continue the search for our friend Emi “JaJa”! Don’t Stop! Encourage the police to @ continue the search… feel free to pass this message it’s important”

Tributes for the Argentine forward who was due to kick off his Premier League career with Cardiff City this week after signing for the Blue Birds have been flying in from all over the sporting world after the tragic news this afternoon.

The Premier League have announced that a minutes silence will take place ahead of all of this weekend’s games as a mark of respect for both Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson.

Tributes from Cardiff and football fans from across the country have been placed outside the Cardiff City stadium today as well as a touching banner that reads: 

We never saw you play and never saw you score, but Emiliano our beautiful bluebird we will love you forever more.

Featured Image by Jon Candy. Displayed under Creative Commons.