LONDON — The wreckage of the small plane carrying the Argentine soccer striker Emiliano Sala and his pilot, David Ibbotson, has been found in the English Channel, a shipwreck hunter said on Sunday, days after parts of the aircraft’s seat cushions were discovered on a French beach.
“The families of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson have been notified by police,” David Mearns, a maritime scientist whose team led the private search for the Piper Malibu plane, said on Twitter.
The families of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson have been notified by Police. The AAIB will be making a statement tomorrow. Tonight our sole thoughts are with the families and friends of Emiliano and David. #EmilianoSalas #NoDejenDeBuscarAEmilianoSala
— David Mearns (@davidlmearns) February 3, 2019
The single-engine, propeller-driven aircraft disappeared over the English Channel after departing Nantes, a city in western France, at 8:15 p.m. local time on Jan. 21, headed for Cardiff, the capital of Wales.
Mr. Mearns said his team had provided Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch with the location of the wreckage. “In agreement with the A.A.I.B., as soon as the plane was located, and the position was passed to them, their vessel, the Geo Ocean III, then moved in over the wreckage” and took over recovery operations.
He said the agency would make a statement on Monday morning.
Mr. Sala’s family conducted a private search after the authorities ended their search on Jan. 24. David Barker, the harbormaster captain of the island of Guernsey, a self-governing British dependency off the coast of France, said in a statement at the time, “The chances of survival at this stage are extremely remote.”
Mr. Sala, 28, a prolific goal scorer for Nantes in the French league, had recently been transferred to the Premier League club Cardiff City and was scheduled to practice with the Welsh team for the first time the next day.
The flight went through rough, wintry weather over the Channel, and Mr. Sala left a voice message for friends and relatives saying that he was afraid that the plane would break apart.
After the authorities ended their search, Romina Sala, Mr. Sala’s sister, pleaded with the authorities not to call it off.
“Please, please, please don’t stop the search,” Ms. Sala said at a news conference in Cardiff, fighting back tears.
She said she knew in her heart that Mr. Sala was still alive somewhere in the Channel.
A Facebook message to Mr. Sala’s sister seeking comment was not immediately answered on Sunday night.
People from all over the world — including soccer stars like Kylian Mbappé, a member of the French national team that won the World Cup last year — chipped in to help the family’s search.
Sport Cover, a Paris-based soccer agency, started a GoFundMe page on Jan. 25 that by Sunday evening had raised more than 371,000 euros, about $424,000.
Geo Ocean III, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch’s vessel, departed Ostend, a coastal city in Belgium, on Sunday morning to begin a three-day underwater search, the organization tweeted. The search area was to cover about four square miles, according to the BBC.
On Sunday evening, after the wreckage was discovered in the English Channel, Mr. Mearns told Sky News: “This is about the best result we could’ve hoped for the families, but tonight they’ve heard devastating news.”