Family tragedy: prominent British CEO, two sons, fiancee and her daughter dead in Sydney seaplane crash

Richard Cousins, 58, was chief of the British-based catering and food services giant Compass Group

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 January, 2018, 2:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 01 January, 2018, 9:04pm

A high-profile British CEO and his family were among six people killed in a New Year’s Eve seaplane crash in Australia.

The plane went down Sunday in the Hawkesbury River near the suburb of Cowan some 50 kilometres north of Sydney, as New Year’s revellers on the banks watched in shock.

The bodies of all of those on board – one pilot and five passengers – have been recovered from the wreckage, with 58-year-old Richard Cousins, chief executive of British catering giant Compass, identified as among the deceased.

Cousins’ two sons in their early 20s and his fiancee and her 11-year-old daughter were also killed in the crash.

“The thoughts of everyone at Compass are with Richard’s family and friends, and we extend our deepest sympathies with them,” Compass group chairman Paul Walsh said in a statement.

Cousins, who led Compass over the past 11 years, was due to step down in March. It followed his decision to quit his role of senior independent director of supermarket giant Tesco.

He has been widely credited with turning the company’s business around and making Compass into one of the Financial Times Stock Exchange’s best-performing firms.

Cousins had also been named as one of the world’s best-performing CEOs by Harvard Business Review.

New South Wales detective superintendent Mark Hutchings said all passengers on board were British nationals and the pilot, 44-year-old Gareth Morgan, Australian.

Tourists typically charter seaplanes for a 20-minute flight from Sydney to dine at an exclusive restaurant on the river and to take in views of iconic landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House and harbour bridge.

Witnesses recalled seeing the aircraft, a DHC-2 Beaver Seaplane which was heading to Rose Bay in Sydney Harbour, do a sharp turn before plummeting straight into the water.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose father died in a light plane accident, paid his respects to the families of those killed.

“We grieve for those who’ve lost their lives, and again, our thoughts and prayers are with their families as they come to terms with this terrible loss,” he said.

A probe into the cause of the crash has begun, with a preliminary report expected within 30 days. Authorities have warned it may take up to a year to find out what happened.

The seaplane was part of the Sydney Seaplanes business that has operated since 2005 with no previous record of mishap.

Seaplane flights have been cancelled until further notice.

Agence France-Presse, Reuters, Bloomberg