Police have confirmed that five British nationals on holidays in Australia have been killed in a seaplane crash along with the pilot on New Year’s Eve.
An 11-year-old girl was the youngest among the fatalities. The crash occurred mid-afternoon on Sunday, Dec. 31 during what would have been a 20 minute return flight to Rose Bay in the iconic Sydney Harbour. The passengers had just finished having lunch at a restaurant on the Hawkesbury River in Sydney’s north.
The victims of the crash were 44-year-old pilot, Gareth Morgan, and family-to-be – Heather Bowden, 11, Emma Bowden, 48, her fiancé Richard Cousins, 58, and his two sons, Edward Cousins, 23, and William Cousins, 25, reported the ABC. Richard Cousins was the chief executive of catering giant Compass and was planning to step down from his post in the new year, reported The Telegraph.
NSW Police confirm six people killed in a seaplane crash north of Sydney were from overseas, with officers still investigating the cause of the crash. https://t.co/jPGKRNMYIc pic.twitter.com/KNCC5vi6cD
— ABC News (@abcnews) January 1, 2018
The seaplane was a joy flight for the British tourists from the Sydney Seaplanes charter company which has been in operation since 2005.
The bodies were recovered on Sunday. The plane’s wreckage on Monday remained submerged in about 13 meters (42 feet) of water.
Mark Hutchings, Commander of the Marine Area Command NSW Police, told the ABC that the passengers of the joy flight were on holiday in Australia and the accident was “nothing more than just tragic”.
“We have in the course of this investigation, already been in contact with the UK,” Hutchings said.
UPDATE: 44yo Gareth Morgan was the pilot on board the Sydney Seaplane. He perished along with Richard Cousins, his two sons, fiancé and her 11yo daughter who were visiting from the UK @7NewsSydney pic.twitter.com/wR3AGfD2yV
— Jessica Ridley (@jessicaridleytv) January 1, 2018
Myles Baptiste, an eyewitness, saw the seaplane make a sharp turn before hitting the water. “It made a tight right hand turn and as it actually turned around, the wings dipped and it nosedived straight into the water,” Baptiste told 9 NEWS.
The seaplane reportedly sank very quickly.
Search and rescue vessels from three@MarineRescueNSW units are responding to a report of a seaplane crash at Jerusalem Bay on the Hawkesbury. Aircraft reported to be upside down. pic.twitter.com/e6aPiY228Z
— Marine Rescue NSW (@MarineRescueNSW) December 31, 2017
Sydney Seaplanes have had suspended their operations until further notice. The company’s managing director Aaron Shaw said they are “deeply shocked.” The pilot, Gareth, was an employee of Sydney Seaplanes.
“We wish to pass on our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the passengers and pilot who were tragically killed,” Shaw said in a statement.
“We do not yet know the cause of the accident.”