Emiliano Sala died when a plane plunged into the English Channel on January 21 last year
The pilot who was meant to have flown footballer Emiliano Sala over the Channel is being prosecuted over the fatal flight, a hearing was told today.
David Henderson, 66, a private pilot from Hotham, North Yorkshire, was replaced on the day of the flight by David Ibbotson.
The Piper Malibu PA-46 was en route from Nantes airport in France to Cardiff when it plunged into the English Channel on January 21, 2019.
The 28-year-old Argentine striker’s body was recovered on February 7, 2019, and taken to Portland, Dorset. Mr Ibbotson, 59, has not been found.
A post mortem examination showed Mr Sala died from head and trunk injuries. He had also been exposed to deadly levels of carbon monoxide poisoning during the flight.
It later emerged Mr Ibbotson was not qualified to fly at night or carry commercial passengers.
The prosecution is being brought by the Civil Aviation Authority against Mr Henderson for acting in a ‘reckless and negligent’ manner under the Air Navigation Order (2016).
He is also charged with attempting to cause the plane to discharge a passenger in the UK.
It has emerged that Mr Henderson appeared before magistrates in Cardiff on September 28 where he pleaded not guilty to the two criminal charges.
He is next due to appear at Cardiff Crown Court on October 26.
Mr Henderson had been investigated for manslaughter by Dorset Police in connection to the two deaths.
But it was confirmed earlier this year that no ‘homicide’ charges were being brought against him by police.
David Henderson (pictured with the doomed plane) was arrested on suspicion of the manslaughter of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson
Dave Ibbotson, 59, was flying the Piper PA-46 Malibu light aircraft with Mr Sala inside. It later emerged he did not hold a night rating on his private pilot’s licence
Fans look at the flowers placed outside Cardiff City Stadium in tribute to Sala – who never played for his new club – on February 2 last year
Richard Stephenson, director at the Civilian Aviation Authority, said: ‘The UK Civil Aviation Authority has commenced a prosecution of David Henderson for offences associated with the fatal light aircraft accident over the English Channel in January 2019.
‘The charges are: On the 18th and 19th of January 2019, acted in a reckless/negligent manner likely to endanger N264DB (Articles 240, 256 and Part 4 of Schedule 13 of the Air Navigation Order 2016).
‘On the 21st of January 2019, attempted to cause N264DB to discharge a passenger in the UK (Section 1(1) of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981, Articles 250, 256 and Part 3 of Schedule 13 of the Air Navigation Order 2016).
‘It will be inappropriate for the CAA to say anything further until the case is concluded.’
Mr Henderson’s prosecution was revealed during a pre-inquest review into Mr Sala’s death which was held at Bournemouth Town Hall today.
As a result, the full inquest is not expected to take place until 2022, more than three years after his death.
Dorset Coroner Rachael Griffin said it would be in the ‘interests of justice’ not to proceed until criminal proceedings against Mr Henderson had ended.
Matthew Reeve, representing Mr Sala’s family, said they opposed the delay as it was not in the ‘public interest’.
Keith Morton QC, representing the Civil Aviation Authority, told the inquest: ‘On September 9, 2020, the CAA issued two summonses against David Henderson for offences under the Air Navigation Order.
‘One, under Article 240, endangering aircraft, relates to two flights including the return flight on January 21, 2019, that ended in the accident that you are directly concerned with.
‘A separate offence under Article 250 relates to the licensing of that particular flight on January 21.
‘David Henderson appeared before Cardiff Magistrates Court on September 28 and entered a not guilty plea. The case was committed to Cardiff Crown Court with his next appearance on October 26.’
Sala’s body was recovered from the wreckage of the plane more than 22 miles off Guernsey in early February
A handout video issued by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch of the windscreen and cockpit area of the wreckage of the plane
When he was asked by the coroner for a timescale for that prosecution, he replied: ‘Early 2022.’
Ms Griffin said: ‘The final inquest hearing will not take place until the conclusion of the prosecution.
‘I’m sympathetic to the delay this will cause in light of what Mr Morton saying about it could potentially go on until early 2022, if not later, but in the interests of justice it is important to await the conclusion of that prosecution.’
Mr Reeve had told her: ‘There is a significant public interest to this inquest and delays should be avoided in the interest of public safety.
‘There has already been a delay of two years and it is the wish of the family that this inquest hearing go on as planned.
‘One does not have to imagine the impact on the family of further delay.’
The hearing was watched on video link by Mr Ibbotson’s wife Nora, with legal representatives for Cardiff City and the Civil Aviation Authority in attendance.
The inquest was adjourned until December 15.
Timeline: How the Sala tragedy unfolded over the English Channel
January 21, 2019:
The single-turbine engine Piper PA-46 Malibu leaves Nantes at 7.15pm for Cardiff and is flying at an altitude of 5,000ft. At 8.50pm the plane disappears from radar in the English Channel.
The French civil aviation authority confirms Argentinian footballer Emiliano Sala, 28, who had just signed for Cardiff City, was on board the light aircraft. Piloting the plane was David Ibbotson, from Crowle, near Scunthorpe.
Guernsey’s harbour master Captain David Barker says the chances Sala and Mr Ibbotson have survived is ‘extremely remote’.
It emerges that football agent Willie McKay arranged for the flight to take Sala to Cardiff but he says he had no involvement in selecting the plane or pilot. He also backs calls for the search to continue.
Relatives and friends of Sala arrive in Guernsey, having enlisted the help of shipwreck hunting expert David Mearns.
Sala’s family, including his mother Mercedes and sister Romina, take a chartered flight in a plane operated by Guernsey airline Aurigny over the area where the plane disappeared.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) says two seat cushions found washed up earlier in the week near Surtainville on the Cotentin Peninsula are likely to have come from the plane carrying Sala and his pilot.
Wreckage of the plane is located in a fresh, privately funded search which was made possible after a fundraising campaign saw more than £260,000 donated.
A body is visible in seabed video footage of the wreckage of the plane. The AAIB says the footage was filmed using an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) which was surveying the area after the plane was located.
A body seen in the wreckage of the plane is recovered. The AAIB says the body will be taken to Portland to be passed over to the Dorset coroner for examination.
The aircraft remains 67 metres underwater 21 miles off the coast of Guernsey. The AAIB says attempts to recover the aircraft wreckage were unsuccessful and, due to continued poor weather forecast, ‘the difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close’.
The Geo Ocean III search boat returns to dock in Portland, Dorset, carrying the wreckage of the Piper Malibu aircraft. Investigators wait to confirm if the body inside the wreckage is that of the pilot or the Argentinian footballer – and identified him using his fingerprints.
Two people charged over a photograph taken in a mortuary of footballer Emiliano Sala that was posted on social media.
David Henderson, from York, arrested on suspicion of manslaughter by an unlawful act. He was later released under investigation.
An interim report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch reveals tests on Sala’s body have found enough evidence of carbon monoxide to cause a heart attack, seizure or unconsciousness
November 6: A pre-inquest review heard that the wreckage of the plane in which footballer Emiliano Sala was killed in will not be recovered from the sea despite the wishes of the family to do otherwise.
March 11: Dorset Police confirm they will take no further action against David Henderson, the pilot arrested on suspicion of manslaughter in relation to the plane crash that killed footballer Emiliano Sala