Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala and his pilot, who died in January in the accident of his plane, were likely exposed to "life-threatening" levels of carbon monoxide, British researchers announced Wednesday.
"Toxicological analyzes found that the passenger had a high saturation level in COHb (a product that combines carbon monoxide and hemoglobin)," the British Air Accident Investigation Office (AAIB) said in a special report.
According to the tests, Sala had a saturation rate in carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) of 58%. "A level of COHb of 50% or more in an individual in good health is generally considered as potentially fatal," the AAIB said. "The pilot is considered likely to be exposed to carbon monoxide as well," the statement said.
The Argentine and his pilot, David Ibbotson, crashed on January 21 when the Nantes attacker flew to join the Cardiff, who had just signed him.
The body of the 28-year-old footballer was found in the remains of the device, more than two weeks after the accident, 67 meters deep, while the body of the pilot was not found.
According to the AAIB, carbon monoxide poisoning constitutes a particular risk because of the type of aircraft they were traveling on. "Airplanes with piston engines produce strong concentrations of carbon monoxide that are sent out of the device by the exhaust system," the researchers said.
"Bad cab impermeability or leaks in the heating and ventilation systems by exhaust gases can allow carbon monoxide to enter the cabin," the report added.
Gas exposure can endanger the brain and nervous system. Also unconscious and heart attacks with rates of COHb greater than 50% are possible.
"It is clear according to the symptoms that CO exposure can reduce or inhibit a pilot's ability to operate a plane based on the level of exposure," explained the AAIB.
Emiliano Sala's family "thinks that a detailed technical examination of the plane is necessary" and asked the AAIB to rescue the remains "without delay," said his lawyer, Daniel Machover, in a statement.
"The family and the public should know how carbon monoxide could enter the cabin," he added. The Cardiff said he was "worried" about the AAIB report, "which shows once again that the plane used by Emiliano Sala was not adequate." "We still think that those who contributed to its use should be responsible for this tragedy," said a spokesman.
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