Hawkesbury River Seaplane Crash: Craft Once Used as a Crop Duster and had been ‘Destroyed’

The seaplane that crashed in the Hawkesbury River on New Year’s Eve, killing six people, has been recovered by police divers.

The main body of the 55-year-old de Haviland DHC-2 Beaver, including the engine, the front propeller and the tail, has been lifted out of the water.

The wreckage has been lowered onto a barge and it has been covered with a tarpaulin due to the sensitive nature of the operation.

Earlier it was revealed in a report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau that the craft was “destroyed” in a fatal accident 20 years ago.

The plane was once a crop duster that was involved in a serious crash near Armidale in November 1996, killing the pilot.

Investigators were unable to work out what caused the crash, but said it was likely the aircraft stalled and the pilot was unable to regain control before it struck the ground.

The report states the plane was “destroyed”, but the Civil Aviation Safety Authority has confirmed that a specialist engineer assessed the damage and said it was repairable.

The 55-year-old de Haviland DHC-2 Beaver, which was making a right turn immediately before the crash into the river north of Sydney, had only recently had its engine rebuilt.

It was built in Canada in 1963 and bought by Sydney Seaplanes in 2006.

The ATSB are still investigating what happened in the final moments of the Hawkesbury River crash but said there was no evidence of any systemic problems with the plane.

Family thank witnesses who tried to help

Leading British CEO Richard Cousins, his two sons, his fiancee and her 11-year-old daughter died when the plane, returning from an upmarket restaurant, dived into the river.

The brothers of Mr Cousins, Simon and Andrew Cousins, have just arrived in Australia and today issued their first statement since the accident.

Headshot of Richard Cousins.

“We are fortunate and thankful for the outpouring of love and support we’ve received from across the world,” they said.

“We are deeply touched by the tributes to Richard, William, Edward, Emma and Heather in the media and throughout the community.”

The brothers said they were thankful for the Sydney Water Police and the witnesses to the disaster who helped at the scene.

“We are also thankful for the tremendous support received from Compass Group, Richard’s employer, the British Consulate General in Sydney and all those in Australia who have expressed their condolences.

“On behalf of our extended families we thank you for allowing us to grieve privately during this difficult time and respect our decision to not participate in any media interviews.”

Plane 13 metres deep

Divers used surface supply hoses for air and communication with a boat above and inflatable lift bags were used to raise the plane to the surface.

It was estimated to be 13 metres below the surface.

Witnesses attempt to rescue a Sydney seaplane sinking into the Hawkesbury River at Cowan on New Year's Eve, December 31 2017.

As part of its investigations into the ditching of the plane, the ATSB will examine information from mobile phones and cameras that may have been on board, as well as any vision witnesses are able to provide.

If any faults with the plane become apparent, the ATSB will notify operators immediately but there is no evidence there are any broader problems.

The bureau has declined to say the crash resulted from a nosedive and are still piecing together information about what happened moments before impact.