Emiliano Sala: Faulty exhaust likely causes deadly carbon monoxide in plane cabin before crash

The most likely cause of the deadly levels of carbon monoxide inside the cabin of the plane carrying footballer Emiliano Sala was the faulty exhaust system, an investigation has found.

Sala, 28, died alongside 59-year-old pilot David Ibbotson when the plane crashed into the sea near Guernsey while flying from France to Wales in January 2019.

The Argentine striker had just signed for Premier League club Cardiff City in a £15million move from French Ligue 1 side Nantes.

Brian McDermid, an Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) inspector, said there were only two plausible explanations for the buildup of carbon monoxide in the Piper Malibu plane – a fire or an exhaust. damaged.

He told Dorset Coroner’s Court that there was no evidence of a fire in the cabin of the single-engine aircraft before the crash and therefore the exhaust system was the probable cause.

A faulty exhaust was the most likely cause of the high levels of carbon monoxide found in the cabin of the plane which crashed while taking Emiliano Sala (pictured), 28, to Wales, heard now Dorset Coroner’s Court.

The Piper Malibu plane, N264DB, on the ground at Nantes airport, France, before the flight which crashed in the English Channel on January 21, 2019

The Piper Malibu plane, N264DB, on the ground at Nantes airport, France, before the flight which crashed in the English Channel on January 21, 2019

Emiliano Sala (pictured) died alongside pilot David Ibbotson, 59, when the Piper Malibu plane crashed into the English Channel, the cause of which may have been linked to carbon monoxide in the cabin

Emiliano Sala (pictured) died alongside pilot David Ibbotson, 59, when the Piper Malibu plane crashed into the English Channel, the cause of which may have been linked to carbon monoxide in the cabin

Mr McDermid said carbon monoxide was odorless and tasteless and piston engine exhaust contained between 5% and 7% carbon monoxide, which can kill you in one to three minutes.

“We first became aware that carbon monoxide was a problem when we received the toxicology report,” he said.

“At that time, we had considered a loss of control in flight and a break in flight.”

The jury has already heard toxicology tests on blood samples from Sala showing a blood carbon monoxide saturation level of 58%, which a pathologist described as “severe poisoning”.

Explaining how carbon monoxide could have entered the cabin, Mr McDermind said the Piper Malibu was fitted with an on-board heater, which drew in cold air from outside.

The air passes through a sealed chamber and is heated by the exhaust gases as they pass through the system.

Mr McDermid said the most likely cause of the carbon monoxide was the exhaust leaking into the radiator sleeve and into the cabin.

“There is no evidence of a fire, so we believe the carbon monoxide must have come from the engine in the cabin,” he said.

The left rear side of the fuselage, including part of the aircraft registration, in the wreckage of the aircraft on the seabed in the English Channel

The left rear side of the fuselage, including part of the aircraft registration, in the wreckage of the aircraft on the seabed in the English Channel

Dave Ibbotson (pictured), who died aged 59, was the pilot of the light aircraft

Dave Ibbotson (pictured), who died aged 59, was the pilot of the light aircraft

Emiliano Sala had just signed for Cardiff City FC from FC Nantes for £15million but was never able to train with the team.

Emiliano Sala had just signed for Cardiff City FC from FC Nantes for £15million but was never able to train with the team.

Mr McDermid continued: ‘Our analysis, taking everything into account, for the exhaust gases to enter the fuselage, leads us to conclude that the most likely route is through the air system of the cabin.

“It took us a while to get there because we couldn’t find a way to get the carbon monoxide in.

“I went through the summaries of 190 accident reports and found nothing there that referred to carbon monoxide issues – there was no history for it.”

“Since 1984 we have not been able to identify anything similar.

“When we looked at all the possibilities, this was the most likely explanation and there must have been a significant disturbance (to the exhaust system).

“It was on a balance of probabilities that we came to the conclusion that it was the exhaust silencer.”

He added: “The exhaust system will deteriorate and therefore it is important that regular maintenance is carried out to ensure its integrity and ensure the safety of the aircraft.”

The Bournemouth inquiry heard that pilots of light aircraft were encouraged to carry carbon monoxide detectors on flights, but it was not compulsory.

“One of the problems with carbon monoxide is that it is odorless and you may not be aware of its presence in the cabin,” McDermid said.

“That’s why we believe the use of carbon monoxide detectors in light aircraft should be mandatory – at the moment they are not. Pilots are advised to wear them but it is not mandatory.

Mr McDermid later told the inquest there was no record of a pressure test being carried out on the plane’s exhaust system, although there was no legal requirement to do.

“When the aircraft left this final maintenance check, there was no evidence to suggest the aircraft was unserviceable or unfit for this flight,” he said.

‘Something on the way to Nantes – that bang. We tried and talked to a lot of people. What could it be and was it a release of energy that weakened something?

“I would have had an engineer look at the plane to find out what the bang was – things don’t happen for no reason.”