The man who found the wreckage of the plane carrying missing Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala has said it is “imperative” it is raised from the seabed to provide answers to his family.
The Piper Malibu N264DB carrying Sala, 28, and pilot David Ibbotson, 59, was discovered off the coast of Alderney in the English Channel on Sunday evening – almost two weeks after it disappeared.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) confirmed on Monday that a body is visible in the wreck, which is about 67m deep.
Marine scientist David Mearns – known as “the Shipwreck Hunter” – volunteered to help the Sala family for free after initial search and rescue efforts by a number of agencies failed.
Mr Mearns and his team, working in conjunction with the AAIB, found the remains of the plane within two hours of starting their search.
Speaking to the Press Association, he said he had stayed in regular contact with the Sala family by text message because of the language barrier.
Mr Mearns said lifting the plane was now the most important task.
Mr Mearns, who has spearheaded around 20 historic wreck discoveries including one of Britain’s most famous battleships the HMS Hood, said with the right equipment it should be a relatively straightforward job to lift the plane.
He said it would need to be done in “slack water” – the point at which the tide is turning.
The operation will be conducted by the Ministry of Defence’s Salvage and Marine Operations (S&MO) in partnership with the AAIB.
Mr Mearns said a salvage vessel equipped for working in the North Sea and a properly equipped dive support vessel would be able to lift the vessel within a matter of days.
When asked if the body would be recovered before the wreck itself, he said: “That’s down to the AAIB and their operational people about how they do that.