By Ryan Gaydos
Published August 15, 2019
Argentine soccer player Emiliano Sala and his pilot were exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide before their small plane crashed in the English Channel earlier this year, killing them both, investigators said Wednesday.
Sala and his pilot, David Ibbotson, were in a single-engine Piper Malibu aircraft near the Channel island of Guernsey on Jan. 21. Sala had just signed with Cardiff City FC in England and was flying from France to join the squad.
Sala’s body was recovered two weeks later and the pilot’s body has yet to be found.
Toxicology tests revealed that a “high saturation” of carbon monoxide and hemoglobin (COhb) was present in Sala’s blood, the Air Accident Investigations Branch said. Sala's blood had a COhb level of about 58 percent. Any level above 50 percent is “generally considered to be fatal” in a healthy individual.
Investigators said it was likely Ibbotson would have been affected “to some extent” but their report didn’t say what role the carbon monoxide exposure played in the crash.
“It is clear from the symptoms that exposure to CO can reduce or inhibit a pilot's ability to fly an aircraft, depending on the level of that exposure,” the investigators said.
Investigators added that a full report of the crash is still pending.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.