TWO seat cushions which are likely to have come from the plane carrying missing footballer Emiliano Sala have been found washed ashore on a French beach, UK investigators have revealed.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said it had been informed by its French counterparts that the objects were found on a beach near Surtainville along the Cotentin Peninsula on Monday.
Sala, 28, and pilot Dave Ibbotson have not been seen or heard from since January 21, when their Piper PA-46 Malibu aircraft went missing over the English Channel.
The Argentine striker had been on his way to South Wales to meet up with his new Cardiff City teammates after completing a club record £15 million transfer from French club Nantes.
In a statement, the AAIB said: "From a preliminary examination we have concluded that it is likely that the cushions are from the missing aircraft".
The agency added: "Since we opened our safety investigation on Tuesday 23 January, we have been gathering evidence such as flight, aircraft and personnel records, and have been analysing radar data and air traffic tapes.
"We have been working closely with other international authorities and have kept the families of those involved updated on our progress."
The AAIB has established a 'priority search area' of around four square nautical miles and commissioned a specialist vessel to carry out a survey of the seabed.
The survey is expected to start this weekend due to difficult weather and sea conditions and could take up to three days to complete.
A remotely operated vehicle will be used to examine any wreckage if found.
Guernsey Police suspended the official search for the lost plane last Thursday, but a privately-funded search has continued.
More than 4,500 contributors including several well-known footballs contributed to a crowdfunding page which has raised over €360,000 (£314,000) to look for both Sala and Ibbotson.
The AAIB said it is aware that the privately-funded search is also being conducted and is "liaising closely with those involved to maximise the chance of locating any wreckage and ensure a safe search operation."