Home Sport Organiser of flight which killed footballer Emiliano Sala jailed for 18 months

Organiser of flight which killed footballer Emiliano Sala jailed for 18 months

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A businessman who organised the doomed flight carrying footballer Emiliano Sala has been jailed for 18 months.

The Argentine striker and his pilot, David Ibbotson, died after the light aircraft crashed in the English Channel in January 2019.

David Henderson, 67, a former RAF officer who was originally meant to pilot the plane, was later found guilty of endangering the safety of an aircraft.

Mr Sala, 28, who had just been signed from Nantes by Cardiff City, arranged a return flight from Wales to his former club through football agent Willie McKay so he could say goodbye to his old teammates.

After deciding to skip the job to attend his son’s wedding in Paris, Mr Henderson hired Mr Ibbotson, a part-time amateur pilot who did not have a commercial licence, to take his place.

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They successfully completed the journey to Nantes, but crashed in stormy weather near Alderney on the return leg two days later.

Prosecutors accused Henderson of taking ‘deliberate and reckless’ risks while running an ‘incompetent’ and ‘dishonest’ organisation.

An inquest has yet to determine what caused the crash, although post-mortem examinations of Sala’s body suggest he and the pilot suffered carbon monoxide poisoning, which can cause drowsiness or unconsciousness. Mr Ibbotson was never found.

Mr Henderson’s defence team is considering an appeal against the conviction or sentence.

Andrew Shanahan, of Shanahan’s Solicitors, said: ‘Now that the case is concluded in the crown court, Mr Henderson wishes to formally pay his respects to the families of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson.

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‘It is important to point out that the Civil Aviation Authority have always accepted that the way in which the flight was arranged and operated did not cause the aircraft to crash.

Mr Shanahan acknowledged the ongoing inquest, adding that ‘a report prepared by the Air Accident Investigation Branch suggests that a failure of part of the aircraft exhaust system led to Mr Ibbotson becoming incapacitated and thereby unable to maintain control of the aircraft.

‘The Civil Aviation Authority have always accepted that the aircraft was properly maintained, and therefore any defect was not known or foreseen by Mr Henderson.’

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