A leading British CEO and his family were killed when a seaplane on a New Year’s Eve joyride crashed into the Hawkesbury River, police have confirmed.
Six people — including Richard Cousins, the chief executive of catering giant Compass, his family and 44-year-old pilot Gareth Morgan — lost their lives when the aircraft, operated by the Sydney Seaplanes charter company, nosedived into the river near the town of Cowan, north of Sydney.
The victims also included Mr Cousins’ fiancee Emma Bowden, 48, her daughter Heather Bowden, 11, and Mr Cousins’ two sons Edward, 23, and William, 25.
Mr Cousins was due to stand down as chief executive of Compass in March.
The bodies were recovered yesterday but the wreckage of the plane is still submerged in about 13 metres of water.
Police are appealing for witnesses to the crash, including boaties who were at the scene, to come forward.
Mark Hutchings, Commander Marine Area Command NSW Police, said the passengers were on holiday in Australia and the incident was “nothing more than just tragic”.
“This is people who have come over on holidays to visit Australia” he said.
“They were in one of the most beautiful parts of the world and for this to happen to them at a place like this is nothing more than just tragic.”
“We have in the course of this investigation, already been in contact with the UK.
“We can confirm that the persons involved in this matter, along with the pilot, were visitors from overseas.”
Investigation at ‘very early stage’
“We are providing consular assistance to the families of five British tourists who have sadly died in a sea plane accident near Sydney,” a statement from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.
“Our sympathies are with their families and friends at this difficult time.”
Commander Hutchings said the investigation was at a very early stage and investigators were “not even close” to establishing if there were any maintenance issues with the seaplane.
He said Sydney Seaplanes had been very cooperative.
Sydney Seaplanes issued a statement saying the company had been operating since 2005 with an unblemished safety record.
“Our aircraft are professionally maintained … and our seaplane pilots are some of the most experienced in the world,” the statement said.
Flights have been cancelled this morning until further notice as the investigation takes place.
The company operates 27,000 flights each year.