Horacio Sala, a lorry driver, said in early February: “I cannot believe it. This is a dream. A bad dream. I am desperate.” Photo: Mauricio Garin/AP

LONDON – The grief-stricken father of the late footballer Emiliano Sala has died of a suspected heart attack three months after his son died in a plane crash.

Horacio Sala, 58, was found dead at home in Progreso, Argentina, yesterday.

A local politician, Julio Muller, said: “He could never get over Emi’s death. At 5’o’clock in the morning, his partner rang me and she was very upset. The doctors were there, but when I arrived at their home, he had already died.”

Sala found out through media reports on January 21 that his 28-year-old son was missing after the plane carrying him from France to join his new teammates at Cardiff City disappeared near the Channel Islands.

Sala, a lorry driver, said in early February: “I cannot believe it. This is a dream. A bad dream. I am desperate.”

He described his son as a “small-town, humble boy”, adding: “He was a lad who always fought for what he had.”

The footballer’s body was found two weeks after the crash during a privately-funded search.

Sala was pictured with Cardiff manager Neil Warnock at the player’s funeral in Progreso, which is 350 miles from Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires.

He had split from his son’s mother, Mercedes, at the time of his death, which comes as a fresh blow for Emiliano’s still-grieving brother Dario and sister Romina.

A spokesman for the Sala family’s hometown club, San Martin de Progreso, said: “At dawn he felt a pain in his chest, they called the doctor but when he arrived, Horacio had already passed away.”

A friend, Daniel Ribero, said: “I saw with him during the week. We spent half an hour talking about the soybean harvest. He seemed better, more willing to talk.”

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch continues to investigate the crash of the Piper Malibu piloted by David Ibbotson, whose body has not been found. The flight disappeared off the radar near Guernsey at 8.16pm.

The AAIB said in its preliminary report that Ibbotson was not licensed to fly fee-paying passengers, and was also not licensed to fly at night.

The report added that the plane failed to follow a straight path between France and Wales.

Ibbotson told air traffic control he was struggling with visibility and exactly 24 seconds before the crash, he plunged to 1 600ft, then desperately tried and failed to “climb rapidly” before hitting the water.

Sala pleaded earlier this month that “justice be done’ for his son, adding: “That is all I can ask.”

In a statement, Cardiff City said the club offered its “deepest condolences” to Sala’s friends and family. “They are very much in the thoughts of us all at this difficult time,” a spokesman said.

The club is still locked in a bitter dispute with Nantes over Sala’s £15 million fee.

Daily Mail