RESCUE teams searching for Emiliano Sala believe there is a chance he could have made it to a life raft.
The new Cardiff City signing, 28, and his pilot are both feared dead after their small private plane disappeared over the English Channel on Monday.
Rescuers are facing a race against time as their search enters its second day – and have now revealed there is a number of possibilities they are investigating.
Guernsey Police tweeted this morning: “We are searching based on four possibilities.
“They have landed elsewhere but not made contact. They landed on water, have been picked up by a passing ship but not made contact.
“They landed on water and made it into the life raft we know was on board. The aircraft broke up on contact with the water, leaving them in the sea.
“Our search area is prioritised on the life raft option.”
Two planes took off this morning to search a “targeted area” where there is the “highest likelihood” of finding anything based on a review of tides and the weather.
Coastal areas around Alderney and off-lying rocks and islands will also be searched from the air, police said.
Loved ones and fans are anxiously awaiting news on the Argentinian star – with rescuers previously saying that their chances of finding survivors was “slim”.
‘I AM GETTING SCARED’
It has since emerged that Sala told friends to “send someone” to find him in chilling voice messages minutes before his plane vanished.
He sent panicked WhatsApp voice messages to his pals as conditions rapidly worsened while he was in the air, Argentinian newspaper Ole reported.
He wrote: “Boys, I’m here on top of the plane that looks like it’s about to fall apart. And I’m going to Cardiff, crazy, tomorrow we already started. In the afternoon we started to train, boys, in my new team.”
Premier League ace Sala later sent another message saying: “If you do not have any more news from in an hour and a half, I don’t know if they need to send someone to find me… I am getting scared!”
It came as sources told The Sun that the Piper PA-46 Malibu plane, which was travelling from Nantes to Cardiff, only managed to take off after up to four attempts.
I don’t know if they need to send someone to find me… I am getting scared!
Nantes pal Nicolas Pallois said Sala, Cardiff’s record signing at £15million, told him his trip there was “bumpy and he feared for his safety” on the return to Wales.
The single turbine-engined Piper PA-46 Malibu had been flying at 5,000ft but Jersey air traffic controllers said it requested to descend and was at 2,300ft when it vanished at 8.30pm near Alderney.
An aeronautical expert has now claimed the flight should never have left the runway.
Commander Jorge Polanco told Argentinian network TyC Sports: “The Piper Malibu is an excellent single-engine aircraft , which has the capacity for seven people, but I am very surprised that they have been doing this operation flying at night, with what is the European winter at the moment.”
He added: “It’s like flying in Antarctica in the winter with an airplane of that size, which can suffer from what is called icing, thus stopping the engine and I think something related to that has happened.”
Last night, as emergency services suspended their search, there were unconfirmed reports orange seating material had been found.
Cardiff supporters left tributes at the ground and chief executive Ken Choo said: “We would like to thank our fans, and the entire footballing family, for their support at this difficult time. We pray for positive news.”
Nantes boss Waldemar Kita said Sala was “polite, kind and loved by everyone”.
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Speaking in Rosario, Argentina, Sala’s mum Mercedes said: “The plane is from the president of Cardiff. They informed us the plane had disappeared and they were looking for it.”
Her trucker husband Horatio added: “We are desperate.”
Sala, believed to have turned down a mega-money offer to play in China, had said on Saturday: “I can’t wait to meet my new teammates and get down to work.”
Cardiff cancelled their training session yesterday while Nantes postponed their next match from today until the weekend.
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