LONDON – Argentine football player Emiliano Sala and his pilot were exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide before their small plane crashed on the English Channel, killing them both, British investigators said Wednesday.
The Piper Malibu single-engine aircraft with Sala and pilot David Ibbotson crashed on January 21 near Channel Island, Guernsey. The hall that played for the French club Nantes traveled to join his new team, Cardiff City, in Wales.
The body of a 28-year-old football player was recovered from the wreck two weeks later. Ibbotson's body not found.
The accident investigation department said toxicological tests showed "high levels of COHb (carbon monoxide and hemoglobin) saturation" in the blood of the Hall.
This level was found to be 58%, above 50% "generally considered potentially lethal" in a healthy person. The researchers said in an initial report that carbon monoxide above this level can cause seizures, unconsciousness and heart attacks.
The report did not specify the role, if any, of carbon monoxide exposure in the accident. They said, however, that a 59-year-old British pilot would probably be affected "to some extent."
"It is clear from the symptoms that CO exposure can reduce or inhibit the pilot's ability to fly, depending on the level of exposure," the researchers said.
The agency said it is still investigating and "the final report will be published in due time."
Daniel Machover, a lawyer from the Sala family, said the discovery "raises many questions."
"Family and society must know how carbon monoxide could get into the booth," he said. "Future aviation safety depends on the greatest knowledge of this subject."
Machover called on the authorities to save the plane from the seabed, 68 meters below the surface, "without further delay."