At least one body is in the wreckage of the plane which disappeared from radar over the English Channel carrying Premier League footballer Emiliano Sala.
The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch said footage had been filmed using an underwater remotely-operated vehicle which was surveying the area after the plane was located on Sunday (Monday, NZ time).
Analysis of the footage by AAIB investigators confirmed the wreckage was of the missing Piper Malibu aircraft, which disappeared in poor weather near Guernsey on January 21.
“The ROV carried out a further search of the area overnight, but did not identify any additional pieces of wreckage,” the AAIB said in a statement. “Tragically, in video footage from the ROV, one occupant is visible amidst the wreckage.”
David Mearns, an American-born shipwreck-hunting specialist leading a privately funded search for the plane on behalf of the Argentinian’s family, announced that the wreckage had been found on Twitter after returning to the island of Guernsey from the search and police informed the families of the two men on board.
Sala and David Ibbotson, the pilot of the small aircraft, are presumed dead by authorities.
“This is about the best result we could have hoped for the families,” Mearns told British broadcaster Sky News.
The Piper Malibu flying plane Cardiff City’s new £15million (NZ$28.44m) striker vanished after hitting bad weather.
Sala was being flown on the evening of January 21 from the French city of Nantes to Cardiff after being signed by the Welsh capital’s Premier League team.
The main search for the plane was called off after three days, but Sala’s family launched a fundraising initiative that led to Mearns bringing his expertise to the mission.
Mearns did a search in conjunction with Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch, which also deployed a vessel for a search of the seabed on Sunday.
“Wreckage of the plane carrying Emiliano Sala and piloted by David Ibbotson was located early this morning by the FPV MORVEN,” Mearns wrote on a Twitter account, referencing the survey vessel.
“As agreed with the AAIB they moved the GEO OCEAN III over the position we provided them to visually identify the plane by ROV [remotely operated underwater vehicle].”
Mearns said a statement from the AAIB is expected on Monday.
“Tonight our sole thoughts are with the families and friends of Emiliano and David,” Mearns said.
Cardiff signed the 28-year-old Sala from Nantes for a club-record fee on January 19.
The striker left Cardiff after signing his deal and returned to Nantes to collect his belongings and say goodbye to team-mates and staff of the French club.