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12th Nov 2021

Emiliano Sala: David Henderson sentenced to 18 months in prison over plane crash deaths


David Henderson will face 18 months in prison

David Henderson has been sentenced to 18 months in prison after organising the flight that killed footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson.

The single-engine Piper Malibu aircraft carrying 28-year-old Sala, who had just completed a move to Cardiff City from Nantes, crashed into the English channel in January 2019, killing both men.

Henderson was found guilty of endangering the safety of the aircraft at Cardiff Crown Court at the end of last month, where he was convicted by a majority verdict of 10 to two. 

The trial heard that the 67-year-old aircraft operator had arranged the flight with football agent Willie McKay and had asked Ibbotson to fly the plane as he was away on holiday in Paris with his wife.

Ibbotson, 59, flew regularly for Henderson, but did not hold a commercial pilot’s licence or a qualification to fly at night. His rating to fly the single-engine Piper Malibu had also expired.

Henderson had also previously admitted trying to arrange a flight for a passenger without permission or authorisation.

Prosecutor Martin Goudie QC said he had been “reckless or negligent” in the way he operated the plane, which had put his business above the safety of passengers.

Mr Goudie also accused Henderson of lying in his statements to investigators. In his closing speech, he claimed Henderson ran an “incompetent, undocumented and dishonest organisation”.

Henderson was granted bail by Judge Mr Justice Foxton after the verdict, ordering him to return to Cardiff Crown Court for sentencing.