Aircraft operator found guilty in Emiliano Sala crash trial


Updated 19 minutes ago

CARDIFF, Wales (AP) – The businessman who organized the robbery that killed Argentinian footballer Emiliano Sala was found guilty on Thursday of endangering the safety of a plane.

Sala died after the Piper Malibu single-engine plane he was traveling in crashed in the English Channel on January 21, 2019. Sala, who had played for French club Nantes, was traveling to join his new team, Cardiff, in the Country of Wales. The body of the pilot, David Ibbotson, has never been found.

David Henderson, the operator of the plane that arranged the flight, had asked Ibbotson to fly the plane while he was on vacation. Ibbotson, who flew regularly for Henderson, did not hold a commercial pilot’s license or qualification to fly at night, and his qualification to fly the Piper Malibu had expired.

Henderson, 67, was found guilty by a Cardiff Crown Court jury with a majority verdict of 10-2.

The jury heard that moments after discovering the plane had crashed, Henderson texted a number of people telling them to stay silent, warning them that he would “open a box of worms.” He told the court he feared an investigation into his business relationship.

Prosecutor Martin Goudie said Henderson had been “reckless or negligent” in the way he operated the plane, putting his business above the safety of passengers. Goudie said Henderson created a culture of violating air navigation regulations among the pilots he hired.

Defense attorney Stephen Spence said his client’s actions were “purely a paperwork issue” and had not led to a likelihood of danger. Spence said Henderson knew that Ibbotson, who had flown for decades and had accumulated around 3,500 flight miles, was an experienced pilot.

Henderson had previously admitted to committing a separate offense for attempting to unload a passenger without valid clearance or clearance.

He was released on bail to return to be sentenced for both offenses on November 12.


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