A statement released Wednesday by the British government, read: “On the morning of Monday 28 January, we were advised by the Bureau d’Enquêtes & d’Analyses (BEA), the French safety investigation authority, that part of a seat cushion had been found on a beach near Surtainville on the Cotentin Peninsula.

“A second cushion was found in the same area later that day. From a preliminary examination we have concluded that it is likely that the cushions are from the missing aircraft.”

The aircraft carrying Cardiff City’s record signing disappeared from radar last week near the Channel Islands.

Side-scan sonar equipment would be used, the statement added, in an underwater seabed search which would cover four square nautical miles. It was expected to get underway at the end of this weekend, taking up to three days.

The AAIB said it was “liaising closely” with the private search mission — financed by donations from footballers, among others — to “maximize the chance of locating any wreckage and ensure a safe search operation.”

“From the moment we were notified of the missing aircraft, we have been looking at the feasibility of conducting an underwater seabed search for aircraft wreckage,” the statement said.

“Based on a detailed assessment of the flight path and last known radar position, we have now identified a priority search area of approximately four square nautical miles.

“Through the Ministry of Defence’s Salvage and Marine Operations (SALMO) Project Team, we have commissioned a specialist survey vessel to carry out an underwater survey of the seabed to try to locate and identify possible aircraft wreckage.

“Due to the weather and sea conditions, we currently expect our underwater seabed search to start at the end of this weekend and to take up to three days.

“Side-scan sonar equipment will be used to try to locate the wreckage on the seabed. If the wreckage is found, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) will be used to visually examine the wreckage.”

Sala had joined Cardiff City for a club-record fee.

The 28-year-old joined Cardiff City from French club Nantes for $19.3 million less than a fortnight ago and was traveling to the Welsh capital, having said goodbye to his former teammates, when the plane he was on board disappeared.

On Tuesday, Cardiff played Arsenal, losing 2-1, in the Welsh club’s first game since the striker went missing and afterwards manager Neil Warnock admitted there had been occasions over the last seven days when he did not want to get out of bed.

Earlier in the week, the Englishman revealed that several City players had undergone counseling and offered his support to the private search, as did Arsenal captain Laurent Koscielny in the matchday programme.

A crowdfunding initiative to finance a private search was launched last weekend in response to the decision by UK authorities to abandon its recovery mission last Thursday.
Cardiff fans hold up an Argentina flag at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.

French World Cup star Kylian Mbappe has donated $34,000, while his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Adrien Rabiot and Marseille’s Dmitri Payet, as well as several other well known players from across Europe, have also made sizable donations to the campaign, which was set up by Sport Cover, the management agency that represents Sala.

The Guernsey Harbour head of Port Operations manager told CNN that the private search had started to be organized but was not yet underway.

In his programme notes, Koscielny said: “I am very happy that the searches are now continuing. Emiliano’s family needs some answers to their questions.

“They need some closure and they will only get that if they find something. To try to move forward, they need something, whether it’s positive or negative.

“A lot of people, players or fans, have helped to fund the searches. It shows that football is a big family. When something sad happens, we all get together and we all help each other.”

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