David Henderson, who organized the flight that crashed and left soccer player Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson dead, has been found guilty of endangering the safety of the aircraft, Cardiff Crown Court confirmed to CNN on Thursday.
Sala and pilot David Ibbotson were traveling from France to Wales after Cardiff City had agreed to sign the striker from Nantes. The soccer star had said farewell to his former teammates just before the plane crashed in the English Channel on January 21, 2019.
Sala’s body was recovered from the wreckage on February 6, 2019, after a private search for the missing footballer and the pilot was commissioned by his family.
Ibbotson’s body has yet to be found, and the plane has also not been retrieved.
Henderson was convicted by a majority verdict of 10 to two and he will be sentenced on November 12 at Cardiff Crown Court, the court added.
The court heard that Henderson did not have a Foreign Carrier Permit (FCP), which he was required to have for the American aircraft, and did not have the required Air Operator Certificate, according to PA Media.
He had already admitted to “attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorisation,” PA Media reported.
He faces a maximum of five years in prison for the charge of endangering the aircraft and two years for the lesser charge, PA Media reported.
Daniel Machover, who is representing the Sala family, said in a statement sent to CNN: “Mr. Henderson’s convictions are welcome and we hope the CAA will ensure that illegal flights of this kind are stopped.
“The actions of David Henderson are only one piece in the puzzle of how the plane David Ibbotson was illegally flying came to crash into the sea on 21 January 2019.
“We still do not know the key information about the maintenance history of the aircraft and all the factors behind the carbon monoxide poisoning revealed in August 2019 by AAIB.
“The answers to these questions can only be properly established at Emiliano’s inquest, which is due to start in February next year.”
The statement added that the Sala family “fervently hope” all involved in the inquest, would provide full disclosure of material.
Kate Staples, general counsel of the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), said Henderson’s “unlawful and unsafe activity” was “unacceptable” and the UK CAA will “always look to prosecute illegal activity.”
Cardiff City were not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNN.