- BBC News World
The coordinator of the flight in which Argentine soccer player Emiliano Sala died was found guilty of endangering the safety of a plane.
Sala, 28, and pilot David Ibbotson, 59, were killed in the English Channel accident in January 2019.
David Henderson, 67, admitted to managing a flight for a passenger without permission or authorization and was found guilty in a court in Cardiff, Wales.
The jury deliberated for seven and half hours to reach a majority verdict.
Henderson will be sentenced on November 12.
Attorneys representing Sala’s family said Henderson’s conviction is welcome, but added that this man’s actions were “just one piece in the puzzle” of how the plane crashed.
The plane in which Sala was traveling, piloted by the British Ibbotson, was heading from the French city of Nantes to the Welsh capital when it crashed in the English Channel on January 21, 2019.
Both occupants of the flight died, which generated commotion both in Argentina like in United Kingdom.
The plane, a single-engine Piper Malibu, took the footballer to join his new team after signing a multi-million dollar contract for his transfer from Nantes to Cardiff City.
The body of the promising striker was recovered from the seabed the following month, but neither the wreckage of the plane nor the body of Ibbotson could be found.
Lack of permits
Henderson changed his preliminary version and on October 18 he pleaded guilty to having organized the flight despite not having all the authorizations.
The jury heard how Ibbotson, who regularly flew for Henderson, did not have a commercial pilot’s license or qualification to fly at night. Furthermore, his permit to pilot the single-engine aircraft had expired.
Henderson asked him to fly the plane since he was on vacation with his wife in Paris.
Shortly after learning that the aircraft had crashed, Henderson sent several text messages to different people who asked to be quiet, with the warning that it could “open a Pandora’s box”, as explained during the judgment.
Henderson, a former member of the British Air Force, admitted in court that he feared there would be an investigation into his business.
Prosecutor Martin Goudie said Henderson was “reckless or careless” in the way the plane operated by putting its business above the safety of the passengers.
Goudie added that Henderson created a culture of breaking air navigation regulations among the pilots he hired.
Fay Keely, who owns the aircraft, had told Henderson not to allow Ibbotson to operate it after being contacted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regarding two air violations committed by the pilot.
Despite this, Henderson allowed Ibbotson to continue flying and in a message to the pilot said: “We both have an opportunity to make money outside of the business model, but not if we upset customers or get the attention of the CAA.”
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.