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Emiliano Sala: Cushions 'from missing plane' found

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image copyrightGetty Images/David Ibbotson
image captionEmiliano Sala (left) was on board a plane being flown by pilot David Ibbotson (right)

An underwater search for footballer Emiliano Sala's plane will take place after cushions were found on a beach.

They were discovered near Surtainville on France's Cotentin Peninsula, on Monday, by French authorities.

Following this, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has identified an area of four square nautical miles for a search.

The plane disappeared with Sala, 28, and pilot David Ibbotson, from Crowle, North Lincolnshire, on board last week.

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Due to weather and sea conditions, an underwater search is not expected to start until the end of the week and will take up to three days, an AAIB spokesman said.

Unverified photographs of cushions, taken on Wednesday, were captured by a woman taking a walk on the beach near Surtainville.

Investigators believe the two seat cushions pictured came from the aircraft.

image copyrightJean-Paul Barbier/La Presse de la Manche
image captionJosette Bernard shows a photograph she took of debris she found on the beach at Surtainville
image copyrightJosette Bernard
image captionThis unverified image shows a cushion which was found on the beach, believed to be from the plane Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson were flying on

The AAIB will now use sonar equipment to locate any wreckage on the sea bed.

A spokesman said French safety authorities found the two seat cushions, which preliminary examinations suggested were likely from the missing aircraft.

Following this, detailed assessments of the flight path and last known radar position were carried out, which identified the search area.

image copyrightJamie Brownfield
image captionThe PA-46-310P Malibu aircraft Sala and Mr Ibbotson were on board

Through the Ministry of Defence's salvage and marine operations team, a special survey vessel has now been commissioned to look for wreckage.

If it is found, a remotely operated vehicle will be sent down to examine it.

Argentine Sala signed for Cardiff City and was travelling from Nantes, where he previously played, when the flight was lost over the English channel.

An official search for it was called off with Guernsey officials saying there was little chance those on board survived, however, more than £290,000 was raised for a private search to continue.

image copyrightTwitter/ @butnevergreen
image captionThe cushions were found on a stretch of the Normandy coast near Surtainville

"We are aware that a privately operated search is also being conducted in the area," an AAIB statement said.

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"And we are liaising closely with those involved to maximise the chance of locating any wreckage and ensure a safe search operation."

Marine scientist David Mearns, who is spearheading the private search and is a Sala family spokesman, tweeted that both vessels will work together as "safely, completely and efficiently as possible".

On Wednesday evening, Nantes players wore shirts bearing Sala's name during their first match since their former striker went missing.

image captionSala's family arrived at Guernsey Airport on Sunday as a private search took place

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