Footballer Emiliano Sala was exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide prior to a fatal plane crash in the English Channel, a report has revealed.
Sala and pilot David Ibbotson crashed on 21 January when travelling to Cardiff from the French city of Nantes.
Toxicology tests on Sala’s body showed CO levels in his blood were so great it could have caused a seizure, unconsciousness or a heart attack.
Mr Ibbotson, from Crowle, North Lincolnshire, has still not been found.
But it is likely he would also have been exposed to carbon monoxide, the Air Accidents Investigations Branch (AAIB) report said.
Sala’s blood had a COHb (carboxyhemoglobin) level of 58% – a level at which symptoms include seizure, unconsciousness and heart attack, the report said.
It said: “A COHb level of more than 50% in an otherwise healthy person is generally considered to be potentially fatal.”
Geraint Herbert, head of air accidents for the AAIB, said it is believed both men were exposed to the gas before the plane crashed.
“Symptoms at low exposure levels [to carbon monoxide] can be drowsiness and dizziness, but as the exposure level increases it can lead to unconsciousness and death,” he added.
“The investigation continues to look into a wide range of areas in relation to this accident, but in particular we are looking at the potential ways in which carbon monoxide can enter the cabin in this type of aircraft.”
Lawyer for the Sala family, Daniel Machover of Hickman & Rose solicitors, said the report raised further questions.
“The family believe that a detailed technical examination of the plane is necessary,” he said.
“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.”
The plane carrying the Argentine striker – Cardiff City’s £15m record signing – was flying in lost contact with radar near Guernsey.
Sala signed for Cardiff on 19 January – just two days before the crash – and had returned to Nantes, in north-western France, to say goodbye to his former teammates.
An official search was called off on 24 January after Guernsey’s harbour master said the chances of survival were “extremely remote”.
But an online appeal started by Sala’s agent raised £324,000 (371,000 Euros) for a private search, led by marine scientist and oceanographer David Mearns.
Sala’s body, which was recovered from the wreckage of the Piper Malibu N264DB following a privately-funded search on 7 February, was repatriated to Argentina.
Mr Ibbotson has still not been found, but it has since been discovered that he was not qualified to fly at night.