Witnesses have described their desperate attempts to help the passengers of a seaplane as it sunk into the Hawkesbury River, and want the families of those who died to know they did all they could.
A leading British CEO, his two sons, his fiancee and her 11-year-old daughter died when a seaplane returning from an upmarket restaurant dived into the river on New Year’s Eve.
The crash was witnessed by many boating in the area, including four men on a houseboat who were on the scene within a minute of the plane crashing into Jerusalem Bay.
Will McGovern said he watched his three mates risk their lives and dive into water thick with aviation fuel to try and retrieve the passengers.
“Dead set they could have died,” he said.
“The whole time I was freaking out that this fuel was going to spark.
“This plane was moving fast, it was going down fast — they could have got sucked in.”
The science teacher said he wanted the families of the six people on board to know frantic attempts were made to save them.
“The families of these poor people they need to know people were there risking their lives trying to help their family members,” he said.
“There was someone there trying to do something.”
The men repeatedly dived into the water in a bid to open the door of the plane, but it was so deep every time they made it down they ran out of breath.
Real estate agent Kurt Bratby said he could not see inside the windows of the plane when he was underwater.
“It was hard because of the oil, but I could see the windows. We just couldn’t dive down deep enough really to see more,” he said.
Mr McGovern said his friends had no thoughts of self-preservation.
“They were literally grabbing onto a sinking aircraft.”
Onlookers screamed at men to get out of water
Mr McGovern said there was a lot of debris in the water and fumes were coming off the surface which burnt the eyes.
Other boats soon came to the scene and those on board were yelling and screaming at the men to get out of the water due to the quantity of fuel about.
“It was an extraordinary level of bravery that my three mates showed getting in the water,” Mr McGovern said.
Although the men could not get the door open, they did not give up there.
They then tied the tail of the plane to their dingy and tried to pull the aircraft to the shoreline.
“But it weighed a tonne, the boat wasn’t moving it at all.”
Mr Bratby said the plane was in a “bad way” and the front end would have been a “pretty bad mess”.
“It probably went down within five minutes.
“It’s no way I wanted to start New Year’s Eve or a new year, that’s for sure.
“I can only think of the families in mourning at the moment.”
Mr McGovern said he would nominate his three friends for bravery awards for their efforts.