Footballer Emiliano Sala’s family grieved on Friday after British authorities formally identified his body as the one recovered from the submerged wreckage of a plane that went down in the Channel more than two weeks ago.
“We can now begin to mourn our son and our brother,” the Argentine Cardiff City striker’s family said in a statement.
“We would like to thank you for all of your signs of affection and support in the most painful time of our life.
“To see everyone doing everything possible to join us in the search has been a precious help to us,” the family said.
Argentine footballing idols Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta also paid tribute to Sala, 28.
The Premier League player’s former French club, Nantes, said it was withdrawing the jersey with Sala’s number 9 on it and all Ligue 1 and 2 matches in France this weekend will be preceded by a minute of applause for him.
The light aircraft was carrying Sala from Nantes to his new team when it disappeared near the British island of Guernsey, along with 59-year-old pilot David Ibbotson, who has not been found.
The player’s body was first spotted by British rescuers using a remotely operated underwater vehicle on Sunday close to where the plane vanished from radar on 21 January.
Investigators recovered the body on Wednesday and transported it to the Isle of Portland in southern England. From there it was taken to Bournemouth where it was formally identified later.
Investigators said they were abandoning plans also to lift the plane wreckage out of the water because of bad weather.