The businessman who organized the flight that killed footballer Emiliano Sala has been sentenced to 18 months in prison, British media reported.
The Piper Malibu aircraft, registered N264DB, was flying from Nantes to Cardiff on the evening of January 21, 2019, when it crashed into the English Channel, killing Sala and the pilot, David Ibbotson.
David Henderson, who organized the flight with a soccer agent, was on October 28, 2021, found guilty of endangering the aircraft. On November 12, 2021, he was sentenced.
During the trial, the prosecutor said Henderson had been “reckless or negligent” in his operation of the plane and that he ran a “cowboy operation”.
The accident investigation, completed in March 2020, found that the pilot, Ibbotson, and the plane did not have the required licenses or approvals to operate commercial flights. Investigators believe Ibbotson lost control of the plane while trying to avoid weather and that he may have been affected by carbon monoxide poisoning.
The crash raised debate over illegal charter flights. Passenger Sala would not have known that neither the pilot nor the aircraft had the right approvals to carry out the flight.
In response to the sentencing, Rob Bishton, Group Director Safety and Airspace Regulation at the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) highlighted the issue:
“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.”