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Emiliano Sala told Cardiff City footballer he had no concerns about private plane, inquest hears 

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Emiliano Sala told a Cardiff City footballer he had no concerns about flying in a private plane that crashed into the Channel, an inquest has heard. 

The Argentina-born striker died alongside pilot David Ibbotson, 59, when the Piper Malibu aircraft crashed into the sea on January 21, 2019.

The 28-year-old had been flying to Wales from France to join Premier League club Cardiff City in a £15 million transfer from Ligue 1 side Nantes.

On Thursday, Bournemouth Coroner’s Court heard that Scottish footballer Jack McKay, 25, called upon his father, football agent Willie McKay, to arrange the flight.

Giving evidence, Jack McKay, who now plays for York City, said he had acted as an intermediary between Sala and his father because he speaks good French.

He said Sala had been anxious to go back to Nantes to say goodbye to his teammates there and collect his belongings before his first training session at Cardiff City.

He said the Argentinian player had raised no concerns about the condition of the plane following the outbound journey.

Emiliano Sala (pictured) died alongside pilot David Ibbotson, 59, when the Piper Malibu aircraft crashed into the sea on January 21, 2019

Emiliano Sala (pictured) died alongside pilot David Ibbotson, 59, when the Piper Malibu aircraft crashed into the sea on January 21, 2019

Scottish footballer Jack McKay (pictured), 25, called upon his father, football agent Willie McKay, to arrange the flight and today told an inquest Sala had raised no concerns about the condition of the plane following the outbound journey

Scottish footballer Jack McKay (pictured), 25, called upon his father, football agent Willie McKay, to arrange the flight and today told an inquest Sala had raised no concerns about the condition of the plane following the outbound journey

In a text message to Sala, Mr McKay said: ‘My dad said if you want to go home tomorrow we can organise a plane for you to go back to Nantes and come back on Monday before training on Tuesday.’

Mr McKay, who was on Cardiff City’s books during the 2018-19 season but made no appearances, said he and Sala had exchanged small talk about how difficult it was to get to Nantes, and how he was going to get all his stuff across to the UK.

In one message, Sala asked how much the flight would cost.

Mr McKay replied: ‘Nothing, if you help me score more goals.’

Sala responded ‘Ha, ha, ha … with pleasure’, followed by ‘We will score lots of goals.’

Mr McKay said he knew his father would not offer to do someone a favour and then ask them to pay for it.

It was revealed that Sala knew very little about the details of the Piper Malibu flight and he was confused about whether he could take luggage. 

Mr Mckay's father, football agent Willie McKay, arranged the flight to take Sala from France to Wales to join Cardiff City

Mr Mckay’s father, football agent Willie McKay, arranged the flight to take Sala from France to Wales to join Cardiff City

The inquest heard Mr McKay had met Sala just three days before the plane crash, at a bar in the St David’s Centre Hotel alongside his brother Mark and father Willie.

When Sala went to his room to book flights to Nantes and back, Mr McKay texted him about his father’s offer.

Mr McKay said he continued to mediate between Sala and pilot Mr Ibbotson, 59, after they departed for Nantes the next morning.

The night before the return journey, Sala sent a picture of his luggage to Mr McKay, asking: ‘Can you ask if I can bring this on the plane?’

Jack McKay confirmed: ‘Good, yeah’ before Sala responded: ‘But is that going to be ok for the plane?’

The next day, just hours before boarding the plane, Sala asked Mr McKay which part of the airport he was meant to be meeting Mr Ibbotson. 

The inquest heard there were other various messages between Mr McKay and Sala to arrange the details, including the witness asking the Argentinian to send him a copy of his passport.

Mr McKay also dropped him off at the airport.

He contacted the player while he was in Nantes, the inquest was told, asking him to move his planned return flight from 9pm to 7pm due to the pilot’s schedule.

Sala asked him if it was possible to leave at 7.30pm.

Mr McKay said he himself had never flown in the plane before, had never met the man who organised it, David Henderson, and had only spoken to pilot Mr Ibbotson in passing at the airport.

Pilot David Ibbetson also died in the crash. His body has never been found

Pilot David Ibbetson also died in the crash. His body has never been found

Mr Henderson, 67, was later jailed for endangering the safety of the aircraft after allowing Mr Ibbotson to fly at the last minute – even though he was not licensed to carry commercial passengers or fly at night. 

Mr McKay said no-one had discussed alternative options for transport, including a commercial flight, with Sala.

Coroner Rachael Griffin asked: ‘Did he raise any concerns about going on a private plane?

‘No,’ he replied.

Mr McKay also said Sala had not raised any concerns about the condition of the aircraft following the outbound flight.

The inquest has previously heard that Sala was overcome by toxic levels of carbon monoxide prior to dying from severe head and chest injuries consistent with a plane crash.

On Wednesday, the jury was told Mr Ibbotson had been barred from flying the Piper Malibu by its owner, after receiving two notices of airspace infringements from the CAA.

He had continued to pilot the plane without her knowledge.

The aircraft left Nantes airport at 7.15pm on January 21 for the flight to Cardiff but radar contact was lost near Guernsey at 8.15pm.

The plane was located on the seabed on February 3 and Sala’s body was found in the wreckage three days later. 

Mr Ibbotson’s body has never been found.

The jury inquest, which is taking place at the Town Hall in Bournemouth, is due to last around a month. 

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