UK businessman, his family and pilot die in Sydney seaplane crash

Richard Cousins was chief executive of Compass Group, world’s largest catering firm

A seaplane has crashed into a Sydney river, killing six people on a 'wine and dine' sightseeing flight ahead of the city's harbour-centred New Year's Eve celebrations. Video: Reuters

 

A high-profile British businessman died in a seaplane crash on New Year’s Eve alongside his fiancee, his two sons and her 11-year-old daughter.

Richard Cousins (58) was chief executive of Compass Group – the world’s largest catering company – and died alongside Emma Bowden (48) and her 11-year-old daughter Heather Bowden. Mr Cousins’s two sons, William Cousins (25), and Edward Cousins (23), were also killed.

Police said the group were on holiday in Australia from the UK, and were on a return flight to Sydney’s Rose Bay, close to Sydney Harbour, when the crash happened.

The sixth person who died was named as Australian pilot Gareth Morgan (44), who worked for tour company Sydney Seaplanes. He was said to have been an experienced pilot.

The plane came down off Jerusalem Bay near Cowan, 40km north of Sydney centre, at about 3.10pm on Sunday.

Mr Cousins, who was recently named as one of the world’s best-performing chief executives by the Harvard Business Review, was due to stand down as chief executive of Compass in March.

Det Supt Mark Hutchings, head of the New South Wales marine area command, told a press conference the crash “can only be described as a tragic accident”.

“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.”

Deeply shocked

Sydney Seaplanes, which has flown passengers including singer Ed Sheeran and Pippa Middleton and her husband James Matthews, said it was “deeply shocked”.

Aaron Shaw, chief executive of the firm, which has suspended all flights until further notice, described Mr Morgan as a “gentle guy”.

“We are all absolutely devastated at his loss. Ringing his parents today was the one of the worst calls I’ve had to make in my life. We just want to get to the bottom of this as quickly as we can.”

The single-engine plane “sunk rapidly” after hitting Hawkesbury river, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said.

Police divers were flown to the scene, and all six bodies were recovered on Sunday evening. It may take several days to recover the wreckage of the plane.

About 10 recreational boats were believed to be in the area at the time of the incident, and police have appealed for anyone who may have seen what happened to come forward. – PA