Missing soccer star reportedly sent worried message from plane before it disappeared

Argentine native and striker Emiliano Sala, as well as the pilot of the single-engine plane, are feared dead.

Emiliano Sala Missing Soccer Player
A bouquet of flowers with the words that read, 'Pray for Sola' is left by a FC Nantes football club supporter in the main square of the city of Nantes, western France, two days after it was announced that the plane carrying Argentinian forward Emiliano Sala vanished during a flight from Nantes to Cardiff in Wales. The 28-year-old Argentine striker is one of two people still missing after contact was lost with their flight on Jan. 21. Sala was on his way to the Welsh capital to train with his new teammates for the first time after completing a £15 million pounds sterling ($19 million US dollars) move to Cardiff City from French side Nantes on January 19. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images –LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

LONDON — Before the plane carrying him vanished over the English Channel, an Argentine soccer player sent a chilling audio message from the flight in which he said, “I’m so afraid” and warned that the aircraft “seems like it’s falling to pieces,” Argentine news outlets reported Tuesday.

Both Emiliano Sala, 28, who had just signed with Cardiff City of the English Premier League, and the pilot, who has not been publicly identified, were feared dead after the disappearance of the plane Monday night.

Officials have said that if the missing plane went down in the cold, rough waters, there was little chance that the two people aboard were still alive.

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A joint French and British search effort resumed Wednesday with airplanes, helicopters and ships, but John Fitzgerald, chief officer of Channel Islands Air Search, said it should no longer be considered a rescue operation.

“It’s getting to that stage now,” he said in a telephone interview. “There’s a lot of people still on the hunt,” he added, but hopes of finding survivors are “very much plucking at straws.”

While in the air, as the plane was battered by harsh weather, Sala, speaking in Spanish, sent an audio WhatsApp message to a group of friends, said Diego Rolán, a Uruguayan player, who told a radio station in his home country that he was among the recipients of the message.

The man speaking sounds calm, asking his friends how they are doing, looking forward to joining his new team, complaining of being tired, and even yawning. But he also returns several times to his concern about the flight.

“If in an hour and a half, you have no news from me, I don’t know if they are going to send someone to look for me, because they are not going to find me,” he says.

Sala was flying to Cardiff from Nantes aboard a single-engine, propeller-driven Piper Malibu, on a night when the region was hit by rain, snow and high winds. The plane took off at 8:15 p.m. local time and disappeared from air traffic control radar over the Channel 68 minutes later.