The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has abandoned efforts to recover the wreckage of the Piper Malibu PA-46-310P that crashed into the English Channel on 21 January with Premiership footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson on board.
The AAIB blames poor weather for its decision to bring the operation to a close, but says extensive visual examinations taken at the scene by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) should provide “valuable evidence” for its safety investigators.
The decision comes after the AAIB and its specialist contractors recovered Sala's body, located by the ROV amidst the wreckage of the piston-single. Ibbotson's body has not been found.
The Malibu (registration N264DB) was en route from Nantes, France to Cardiff, Wales when it vanished from radar near Guernsey in the Channel Islands at around 20:30 local time. The wreckage from the aircraft was located on the seabed nearby, on 3 February.
“Unfortunately, attempts to recover the aircraft wreckage were unsuccessful before poor weather conditions forced us to return the ROV to the ship,” the AAIB says in a statement. “The weather forecast is poor for the foreseeable future and so the difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close.”
The AAIB is expected to publish an interim report by 21 February.