Aug. 14 (UPI) -- Soccer star Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson suffered dangerous levels of carbon monoxide before the private plane they were in crashed in the English Channel in January, a British aviation investigation agency said Wednesday.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch said that toxicology tests showed that Sala's body had a carboxyhaemoglobin saturation level of 58 percent. Carboxyhaemoglobinis a mixture of carbon monoxide and hemoglobin, and 50 percent saturation is considered potentially fatal.
The Argentine soccer star was traveling from France to Britain after signing a contract to play for Cardiff City in Britain's Premier League when the plane went down Jan. 21. Sala's body was recovered Feb. 7 after a search. Ibbotson's body was not located.
The toxicology information comes from the agency's second special bulletin detailing the crash of the Piper Malibu aircraft in which the men were riding.
"Some operational aspects are yet to be determined, such as the validity of the pilot's license and ratings," the report said. "Our priority now is to go through the evidence, much of which is extensive and complex, so we can piece together what happened between the aircraft being lost from radar and it coming to rest on the seabed. This will help us understand the potential causes of the accident."
The report added that officials are continuing to keep families updated on the investigation's progress and will issue a final report once investigators have completed their work.
"The dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide have been found in Emiliano's body raises many questions for the family," said Daniel Machover, an attorney for the Sala family. "How he died will be determined at the inquest in due course. The family believes that a detailed technical examination of the plane is necessary.
"The family and the public need to know how the carbon monoxide was able to enter the cabin. Future air safety rests on knowing as much as possible on this issue. Emiliano's family call on the AAIB to salvage the wreckage of the plane without further delay."
In June, British authorities arrested a 64-year-old man, whom it did not identify, on suspicion of manslaughter by an unlawful act in connection with the plane crash.
Detective Inspector Simon Huxter of the Dorset Police Major Crime Investigation Team said at the time the man had not been charged, but was part of a wider investigation into Sala's death.