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Sydney seaplane: Tributes paid to family killed in crash

December 31, 2017
Crash investigatorsImage copyrightPA

A leading UK businessman died in a New Year’s Eve seaplane crash near Sydney alongside his two sons, his fiance and her young daughter, his firm has said.

Richard Cousins, chief executive of the catering firm Compass Group, died after the plane plunged into a river 30 miles (50km) north of Sydney.

Mr Cousins, 58, died alongside his fiance Emma Bowden, 48, her 11-year-old daughter, and his sons, William, 25, and Edward, 23, police have said.

The Australian pilot was also killed.

Police in Australia have named the pilot as Gareth Morgan, 44.

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Media captionPolice divers attended the scene of the crash

All six died after the seaplane – which belonged to a firm running sightseeing tours – came down in the Hawkesbury River, near the suburb of Cowan.

The crash happened at about 15.10 local time (04.10 GMT) on Sunday, New South Wales Police said.

BBC correspondent Phil Mercer said the family were believed to be returning to Sydney from an exclusive waterfront restaurant in Jerusalem Bay on New Year’s Eve when the plane crashed.

Mr Cousins had been chief executive of the Surrey-based Compass Group – thought to be the largest food service company in the world – since 2006.

He was due to leave his role in March and retire from the group in September.

‘A tragic accident’

Paul Walsh, the firm chairman, said the firm was “deeply shocked and saddened” by his death.

“The thoughts of everyone at Compass are with Richard’s family and friends, and we extend our deepest sympathies to them,” he said.

“It has been a great privilege to know Richard personally and to work with him for the last few years.

“Richard was known and respected for his great humanity and a no-nonsense style that transformed Compass into one of Britain’s leading companies.”

Image copyrightiStock
Image caption The crash involved a single-engine DHC-2 Beaver Seaplane

Detective Superintendent Mark Hutchings, head of the New South Wales marine area command, said Mr Cousins and his family had been visiting from the UK.

“These people had come over on holiday to one of the most beautiful parts of the world and for this to happen at a place like this is just tragic,” he told a press conference.

“We would like to extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of those people that perished.”

He added: “This can only be described as a tragic accident, and our hearts go out to them.”

Plane ‘sunk rapidly’

Eyewitnesses said the aircraft turned sharply to the right shortly after taking off, before crashing.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said the plane “sunk rapidly” after crashing into the river.

Police divers were flown to the scene, and all six bodies were recovered on Sunday evening.

“The sequence of events leading up to the accident are not yet understood,” the ATSB said.

The single-engine aircraft belonged to sightseeing flight company Sydney Seaplanes, which offers scenic flights over local tourist attractions.

Aaron Shaw, managing director of Sydney Seaplanes, said: “We do not yet know the cause of the accident.”

He said everyone at the firm was “deeply shocked by this incident”, adding: “We have suspended all operations until further notice.”

The UK Foreign Office has said consular officials are in contact with local authorities and staff are “ready to provide consular assistance”.