The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said that they had employed specialist contractors to recover the body late on Wednesday in what they described as “challenging conditions.” This came after a body became visible to investigators who had sent a submersible with cameras to the plane’s position on the seabed off Guernsey.
The recovery operation was carried out in as “dignified a manner as possible,” with the families of Sala and pilot Jon Ibbotson kept apprised of the recovery constantly.
“Following extensive visual examination of the accident site using the remotely operated vehicle (ROV), it was decided to attempt recovery operations,” the AAIB said in a statement.
“In challenging conditions, the AAIB and its specialist contractors successfully recovered the body previously seen amidst the wreckage. The operation was carried out in as dignified a way as possible and the families were kept informed of progress.”
They also stated that they intend to release a report on the incident within one month of the accident.
The Geo Ocean III transferred the body from the location of its discovery to Portland Port in Dorset early on Thursday. The body was then transferred to the Dorset coroner.
The Piper Malibu N264DB plane went missing on January 21 shortly after taking off from the French city of Nantes on its way to Cardiff ahead of the 28-year-old’s first training session with the Premier League side.
Ibbotson, 59, was piloting the aircraft when it disappeared from radar screens shortly after requesting clearance to begin a descent.
Aviation expert Juan Arturo del Azar has theorized that the accident may well have been due to spatial disorientation, a temporary condition in which a pilot can momentarily lose track of their position in the environment.
A privately-funded search located the wreckage of the aircraft after the official search was called off on January 24. Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé are understood to be among those who contributed to the fund.
Noted shipwreck hunter David Mearns located the wreckage using sonar after scouring sections of the English Channel. The investigation into the cause of the accident is now under the jurisdiction of the AAIB.
Sala was one of French football’s top scorers this season, with 12 Ligue 1 goals, just behind the Paris Saint-Germain trio of Kylian Mbappé, Edinson Cavani and Neymar. His form earned him a £15 million ($19.5 million) transfer to relegation-threatened Cardiff City.
He signed his contract with the club on January 19, where he posed with his new shirt at the Cardiff City Stadium and was scheduled to make his debut the following week against Arsenal.