Footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson, who were killed in an accident on 21 January while traveling on a private plane from Nantes to Cardiff, are exposed in the cockpit to toxic values of the carbon monoxide gas.
The British Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) investigating aircraft accidents reported Wednesday in an update (pdf) that Sala blood had a significantly increased concentration of carboxyhemoglobin (COHb), suggesting carbon monoxide poisoning.
If the concentration of carboxyhemoglobin in the blood is above 50 percent, according to the AAIB there is a chance of a heart attack and people will lose consciousness. A COHb saturation of 58 percent was found in Sala.
The body of Ibbotson (59) is still missing, but the AAIB probably calls it that the pilot is also poisoned, since there is no separation between the cockpit and the cabin in the aircraft (a Piper PA-46 Malibu). "And it is clear that carbon monoxide poisoning can make a pilot less or no longer able to control an aircraft," writes the AAIB.
The body has not yet completed its investigation and is not (yet) drawing any conclusions about the cause of death of Sala and Ibbotson. A section on Sala's body in February found that he had been killed by head and chest injuries.
See also: Sala died of head and chest injuries in a plane crash
Sala's family asks for no investigation
The AAIB is still investigating how the carbon monoxide may have entered the cabin. The agency already reports that there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning on aircraft such as the Piper PA-46 Malibu because the engine produces high concentrations of carbon monoxide.
They should normally be discharged through the exhaust system, but due to, for example, a bad seal in the cockpit or a leak in the ventilation system, the toxic gas can end up in the cabin.
The Sala family has called for the wreck of the aircraft to be salvaged as quickly as possible for further investigation. "The family has many questions now that high levels of carbon monoxide have been found in Emiliano's body," the family states in a statement through his lawyer.
"How he died will be determined in due course. The family believes the aircraft should be extensively investigated. The family and the public should know how the carbon monoxide entered the cabin."
28-year-old Sala flew in January from his old club Nantes in France to his new club Cardiff City, but the plane disappeared over the Channel. The Argentinian striker with 17 million euros was the most expensive purchase in the club history of Cardiff City.
An image of the wreck of the Piper PA-46 Malibu at the bottom of the Channel. (Photo: ANP)