A lawyer defending a man in the trial for the 2019 plane crash that killed Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala said on Tuesday that his involvement in the tragedy was “purely a paperwork”.
David Henderson, 67, is facing trial at Cardiff Crown Court on charges of endangering the safety of the plane. He has pleaded not guilty.
He has pleaded guilty to a separate charge of attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorization.
Sala, 28, and pilot David Ibbotson, 59, died when the single-engined Piper Malibu plane came down in the Channel en route from Nantes, north-west France to Cardiff.
The forward signed for Cardiff City, then in the Premier League, from French side Nantes for a club record £15 million (18 million euros, $19 million).
Ibbotson never had a license to fly at night and its certification to fly the Piper Malibu expired in November 2018 — two months before the fatal crash, the court has previously heard.
Although Ibbotson was an experienced pilot with thousands of hours of flight, according to Henderson, he did not have an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) authorizing him to pay for trips.
Henderson was the operator of the aircraft, responsible for its maintenance and rental on behalf of the owner, and arranged the unfortunate flight.
His lawyer, Stephen Spence, admitted on Tuesday that his client had not followed the rules, but insisted that in itself there was no real risk of danger and that he was not reckless.
“While the AOC is a magic piece of paper that allows you to charge people, it has little to do with danger or danger,” he said.
“It is a matter of law that the responsibility for the safe conduct of a flight lies with the pilot,” Spence said.
He urged the jury to treat his client fairly.
“He is 67 years old, a family man, father, grandfather, married for over 30 years, former RAF officer, businessman, pilot with over 11,000 flight hours. In many respects, he is like any of you “
A British air crash investigation report published in March last year concluded that Ibbotson was not licensed to fly the aircraft or fly at night.
It assessed that he lost control and flew too fast trying to avoid bad weather, and both he and Sala were affected by carbon monoxide poisoning before the accident.
Sala’s body was recovered from the ocean floor the following month but Ibbotson’s body was never found.
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