Footballer Emiliano Sala died instantly from 'head and trunk injuries' and was 'deeply unconscious' when the plane he was in crashed after breaking up mid-air, a jury has concluded.
Sala, 28, was on board the Piper Malibu flying from Nantes to Cardiff on the evening of 21 January 2019 when it crashed in the English Channel close to Guernsey.
Pilot David Ibbotson, 59, was also killed and his body has never been found.
An inquest jury at Bournemouth Town Hall has found the Argentinian striker died from head and chest injuries but was already deeply unconscious before the crash.
They added this is likely from him being poisoned by fumes from the plane's faulty exhaust system.
The jury returned a lengthy conclusion after deliberating for nearly two days.
"Emiliano Sala died as a consequence of injuries sustained in an aircraft crash where the flight was operated as a commercial flight without the required authorisation, certifications or permissions being in place.
At approximately 8.16pm the aircraft disappeared from radar and Emiliano was recovered from the wreckage on the seabed on 6 February 2019.
Emiliano died instantly from fatal head and trunk injuries due to high energy aircraft crash. It is likely Emiliano was deeply unconscious due to carbon monoxide poisoning at the time of the accident."
During the month-long inquest hearing at Bournemouth Town Hall , pathologist Dr Basil Purdue said Sala had been overcome by "severe poisoning" and would have been "deeply unconscious" prior to the single-engine plane crashing.
Dr Purdue added Sala was still alive at the point of impact and died from severe head and chest injuries.
An engineering expert also said the most likely cause for the build-up of carbon monoxide inside the cabin was from the plane's faulty exhaust system.
Following the verdict, Daniel Machover, of Hickman & Rose solicitors, which represented the Sala family, said:
"This inquest has exposed the complex facts leading to Emiliano's untimely death.
It has shone a bright light on many of the missed opportunities in the worlds of football and aviation to prevent his tragic death.
The family also welcome the coroner's decision to communicate to the relevant authorities her concerns about the safety issues arising from this inquest in order to prevent similar future deaths."
In a statement, Cardiff City FC said: "We are pleased that the truth has been firmly established in a court of law, particularly the facts surrounding the organisation of the illegal flight."
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