Emiliano Sala: Man charged in connection with crash

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Emiliano Sala had just signed with Cardiff City when he died in a plane crash

A man has appeared in court in connection with the plane crash which killed footballer Emiliano Sala, a pre-inquest hearing was told.

The plane carrying 28-year-old Sala and pilot David Ibbotson crashed into the English Channel in January 2019. 

David Henderson, 66, pleaded not guilty to offences under the Air Navigation Order in September.

The full inquest at Bournemouth Coroner's Court was adjourned until after the trial in 2022.

Matthew Reeve, representing Mr Sala's family, said the delay to holding a full inquest would be a "severe blow" to them.

However senior coroner for Dorset, Rachael Griffin, said the adjournment was needed "in the interests of justice".

At a pre-inquest review hearing, the Civil Aviation Authority said Mr Henderson, a charter pilot and aircraft broker, had been charged with offences under the Air Navigation Order.

Mr Henderson, from York, is alleged to have arranged the flight from Nantes to Cardiff in the single engine Piper Malibu aircraft, which lost contact with air traffic control north of Guernsey.

Keith Morton QC, representing the CAA, told the inquest hearing that Mr Henderson had been charged with acting in a reckless or negligent manner likely to endanger flights.

He is further charged with operating the aircraft commercially without the correct permissions.

He appeared before Cardiff magistrates and the trial at Cardiff Crown Court is not expected to take place until early 2022.

Mr Morton said the CAA's investigation was continuing into "matters not related to this incident."

Image caption,
The Piper Malibu N264DB disappeared from radar near the Channel Islands on 21 January.

It took rescuers two weeks to find the wreckage. The body of Mr Sala, who had signed for Cardiff City just days earlier, was recovered on 8 February after a private rescue team took over the search.

The body of Mr Ibbotson, 59, from Crowle in Lincolnshire, has never been found.

Mrs Griffin said the full jury inquest - which had been scheduled to take place in March 2021 - would now be adjourned until after Mr Henderson's trial.

However she decided not to suspend the inquest process, and scheduled further pre-inquest review hearings for 15 December and 10 March 2021.

Image source, David Ibbotson
Image caption,
David Ibbotson's body has not been found

Nora Ibbotson, wife of David Ibbotson, and legal representatives for the Sala family joined the inquest hearing remotely.

Mr Sala's family representative said the delay would be a "severe blow" to them.

However Mrs Griffin said: "I am required to establish the full facts of the circumstances of Emiliano's death.

"This will be determined by a jury and there needs to be a clear understanding of every aspect of the circumstances.

"In the interests of justice it's important to await the conclusion of that prosecution."

She added that the logistics of holding what is expected to be a lengthy inquest in March were "unachievable" due to the continuing pandemic.

A final report by the Air Accident Investigation Branch concluded that the single-engine aircraft suffered an in-flight break-up while being flown too fast for its design.

It added that Mr Ibbotson was probably affected by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Investigators found a contributory factor in the crash was Mr Ibbotson having no training in night flying, and a lack of recent practice in relying only on cockpit instruments to control a plane.

They also found that he held a private pilot's licence that did not allow him to conduct flights for reward.