Emiliano Sala plane crash: Businessman convicted over deaths

Businessman David Henderson, who organised the flight that crashed and led to the death of footballer Emiliano Sala, has been found guilty of endangering the safety of an aircraft by Cardiff Crown Court.

Sala and pilot David Ibbotson died when the plane they were in crashed into the English Channel in January 2019.

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Henderson had previously pleaded guilty to trying to arrange a flight without permission or authorisation but had denied the charge of endangering the safety of an aircraft.

It took the jury seven and a half hours to decide to convict Henderson.

The plane was bringing Sala from Nantes, France, to Cardiff, where he had signed a deal with Cardiff City.

A hearing in October 2020 reported that Ibbotson's licence to fly a commercial aircraft had expired in November 2018, while the UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch reported that the plane had been leaking carbon monoxide during the flight.

An attempt by Ibbotson to pull up the plane had caused it to break up in midair.

The jury heard that Ibbotson also didn't have a qualification to fly at night, and his ratings to fly the single-engine Piper Malibu had expired. Henderson had asked Ibbotson to take the flight, as the businessman was on holiday in Paris.

After being made aware of the crash, the court heard, Henderson texted people telling them to keep quiet, as information they gave out would "open a can of worms."

He later admitted in court that he was afraid of what an investigation would do to his business.

Owner of the plane, Fay Keely, had also asked Henderson not to let Ibbotson fly the plane again after being told by the Civil Aviation Authority about two airspace infringements he had committed.

The prosecutor in the case said Henderson had been "reckless or negligent" by prioritising his business rather than the safety of those on board.

He also added that there was a culture of breaking airspace rules among the pilots that he hired.

Henderson will be sentenced on Nov. 12.