Emiliano Sala: Man who organised flight that killed footballer jailed for 18 months

Emiliano Sala was killed after the small plane he was travelling on crashed into the English Channel in January 2019

David Henderson, 67, has been jailed for 18 months (Photo: Getty Images)

The man responsible for organising the fatal flight which crashed and killed footballer Emiliano Sala has been jailed for 18 months.

David Henderson, 67, was found guilty at Cardiff Crown Court last month of recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft.

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Mr Henderson, of Hotham in the East Riding of Yorkshire, also admitted to a charge of trying to arrange a flight for a passenger without permission or authorisation.

What happened to Emilia Sala?

Sala, 28, had been travelling to his new club Cardiff City, following a £15 million transfer from Nantes FC, when the plane crashed into the English channel on the evening of 21 January 2019.

The crash killed the Argentinian striker and the plane’s pilot David Ibbotson, 59. The body of Mr Ibbotson has never been found.

The Argentinian striker had been travelling to his new club Cardiff City when the crash happened (Photo: Getty Images)

The flight had been arranged by Mr Henderson with football agent William ‘Willie’ McKay.

The father-of-three and former RAF officer had asked Mr Ibbotson to fly the plane as he was away on holiday with his wife in Paris.

Mr Ibbotson, who flew regularly for Henderson, did not hold a commercial pilot’s licence, a qualification to fly at night, and his rating to fly the single-engine Piper Malibu had expired.

Neither did Mr Henderson have an air operator certificate (AOC), which meant he was not legally allowed to take money for trips.

After finding out the plane had gone down, the 67-year-old texted a number of friends and colleagues telling them to stay silent, warning it would “open a can of worms”.

‘A cavalier attitude’

Mr Justice Foxton said Mr Henderson had shown a “cavalier attitude” and intentionally breached Civil Aviation Authority regulations “for reason of profit”, adding that he was “reckless, not merely negligent”.

Mr Henderson was accused of running a “cowboy outfit” more focused on profit than the safety of his passengers.

In a statement, his lawyers said: “Now that the case is concluded in the Crown Court, Mr Henderson wishes to formally pay his respects to the families of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson.

“It is important to point out that the Civil Aviation Authority have always accepted that the way in which the flight was arranged and operated did not cause the aircraft to crash.”

He said he will be considering whether to appeal against the conviction and sentence.

An inquest into Sala’s death is due to be held next year.

Rob Bishton, group director of safety and airspace regulation at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, added: “Our thoughts remain with the families and friends that were affected by this tragic accident in January 2019.

“Illegal commercial flights represent a significant safety risk and that is reflected in the court’s decision today.

“The aviation system relies on the integrity of all those involved. Anyone operating a commercial flight should always have the necessary licence and approvals in place.”

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