The family of Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala said Friday they could now begin mourning after his body was formally identified following its recovery from a crashed plane in the Channel.
"We can now begin to mourn our son and our brother," the Argentinian player's family said in a statement, also thanking everyone involved in the effort to locate the submerged wreckage off Guernsey.
"We would like to thank you for all of your signs of affection and support in the most painful time of our life," the family said.
"To see everyone doing everything possible to join us in the search has been a precious help to us."
The family said their thoughts were also with the family of the 59-year-old pilot of the plane, David Ibbotson, whose body has not yet been found, saying "we hope the authorities do everything possible to find him".
Sala had returned to France to say goodbye to his teammates at Ligue 1 club Nantes and was flying to Wales on January 21 to join up with his new club following his 17-million-euro ($19.3 million) transfer.
The plane, a Piper PA-46 Malibu, vanished from radar around 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Guernsey.
Body recovered from wreckage of plane carrying footballer Sala
A body has been recovered from the wreckage of the plane that was carrying Argentina-born professional soccer player Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) in Britain said late on Wednesday.
The agency did not disclose the identity of the body.
Sala, 28, had been en route from Nantes in western France on Jan. 21 to make his debut for Premier League team Cardiff City when the plane disappeared over the English Channel.
The Geo Ocean III, transporting a body recovered from the wreckage of a plane carrying Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala is docked in Weymouth harbour, south west England . (AFP)
The wreckage was found on Sunday following a privately-funded underwater search. Two seat cushions were discovered on the French coast that likely belonged to the aircraft.
A body was visible inside when the wreckage was on the seabed near Guernsey, air accident investigators had said on Monday.
The body was "successfully recovered" but attempts to recover the aircraft wreckage were unsuccessful, the AAIB said in a statement on Wednesday. The overall operation was brought to an end due to "poor weather conditions," the agency said.
Sala had agreed to join Welsh club Cardiff for a club-record fee of 15 million pounds ($19.63 million) from French Ligue 1 club Nantes.
He and the pilot are believed to have died as the single-engined Piper Malibu aircraft crashed into the sea.
On Saturday at Cardiff's home Premier League match against Bournemouth, the Cardiff players held up a T-shirt bearing the image of Sala, who never played a game for the club, after the team scored in the fifth minute.
Fans were handed daffodils as they entered the Cardiff City Stadium.
In the 28th minute, a round of applause swelled around the stadium as fans sang Sala's name.
On Jan. 30, Nantes payed tribute to their former player.
Referee Frank Schneider stopped play in the Ligue 1 match against St Etienne for a minute of applause during which Nantes coach Vahid Halilhodzic was in tears.