After nine more hours of scouring the English Channel, rescuers suspended their search Wednesday evening for the plane carrying Cardiff City soccer player Emiliano Sala and his pilot. Police said on Twitter that they'll decide Thursday morning whether to resume the search, but Reuters and the Guardian report rescuers have almost no hope of finding Sala or pilot David Ibbotson alive. The chief of Channel Islands Air Search said searchers have found no sign of the plane in a target area of 280 square miles. "If there was anything on the surface I think we would have found it on the first night because the weather conditions were really good," John Fitzgerald told Reuters. Police said the water temperature was barely 50 degrees Fahrenheit. "There’s no chance," he added. "You’d have to be really, really fit to survive even four or five hours in the water." The single-engine Piper Malibu vanished from radar Monday evening on a flight from Nantes, in western France, to Cardiff, where Sala was to make his debut for his new team.
The 28-year-old had left a chilling voice message for his family just before the plane's disappearance: "I’m here on a plane that looks like it’s about to fall apart, and I’m going to Cardiff," he reportedly said. "If in an hour and a half you have no news from me, I don’t know if they are going to send someone to look for me because they cannot find me, but you know … Dad, how scared am I!" His father, Horacio, who is home in Argentina, has since said he is "speechless" and "desperate" for news, the Independent reports. Sala had returned to France to say goodbye to friends and former teammates there, per Sky Sports, after signing a record $19.3 million contract with Cardiff. Nantes fans have held a vigil, and Sala’s former teammates and manager are praising the missing player, the BBC reports. Claudio Ranieri, his former coach, said: "Emiliano is a wonderful character. Knowing him as a person, he's a fighter." (Two dead after plane crashes into front yard.)