1. ITV Report

Tributes paid to British boss and family killed in Sydney seaplane crash

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies

Tributes have been paid to a high-profile British businessman and his family after they were killed in a seaplane crash in Sydney on New Year's Eve.

Richard Cousins, the 58-year-old chief executive of the world's largest catering company, died alongside his sons Will and Edward, aged 25 and 23, his fiancée Emma Bowden, 48, and her 11-year-old daughter Heather while they were on holiday in Australia.

Police carry debris from the crash. Credit: AP

The group were were on a return flight to Sydney's Rose Bay, close to Sydney Harbour, when the small aircraft apparently nose-dived into the Hawkesbury River off Jerusalem Bay, 25 miles north of Sydney city centre, at about 3.10pm (4.10am GMT) on Sunday.

The pilot was named as Australian Gareth Morgan, 44, who worked for Sydney Seaplanes.

Mr Cousins was the chief executive of FTSE 100 company The Compass Group.

Richard Cousins was the chief executive of The Compass Group. Credit: PA

Friends and colleagues described him as "well known and respected" after he helped transform Compass' fortunes upon becoming the ailing catering firm's boss in 2006. He had been due to step down from the role in March.

Paul Walsh, Compass Group chairman, 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."

Mr Cousins' son Will was head of press for campaigners Open Britain, and was described by the group's chairman Roland Rudd as an "extraordinary young man" who would be "missed beyond words".

Will Cousins was head of press for campaigners Open Britain. Credit: Twitter
Emma Bowden, 48, and her 11-year-old daughter Heather. Credit: Facebook
Edward Cousins. Credit: Facebook

Labour MPs said Mr Cousins, who worked on the Remain campaign during the referendum, was an "absolute joy" to work with and would be "missed by all".

The deaths were revealed by Detective Superintendent Mark Hutchings, head of the New South Wales marine area command.

"These people had come over on holiday to one of most beautiful parts of world and for this to happen at a place like this is just tragic," he said.

Australian Gareth Morgan was the pilot of the plane.

A probe is currently underway to establish the cause of the crash.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said: “We are providing consular assistance to the families of five British tourists who have sadly died in a sea plane accident near Sydney. Our sympathies are with their families and friends at this difficult time."

Earlier, New South Wales Police Force said divers had recovered six bodies from the scene. The plane crashed off Jerusalem Bay near Cowan, north of Sydney, at around 3.10pm (4.10am GMT) on Sunday, police said.

Sydney Seaplanes said it was "deeply shocked" by the "tragic accident" involving one of its aircraft.

A plane similar to the one the family were flying in. Credit: David Oates/AAP/PA

Aaron Shaw, managing director, said in a statement: "All at Sydney Seaplanes are deeply shocked by this incident and the resulting loss of life.

"We wish to pass on our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the passengers and pilot who were tragically killed.

"We do not yet know the cause of the accident.

"We are dedicating our full resources in assisting the NSW Police, the Australian Transport Safety Board, Civil Aviation Safety Authority and other relevant authorities to understand the cause of the accident."

He added: "Sydney Seaplanes has been operating since 2005, have undertaken thousands of flights in that period and have had an unblemished safety record until now.

"The safety of our passengers and staff is our absolute primary and highest priority.

"Our aircraft are professionally maintained to manufacturer's specifications and our seaplane pilots are some of the most experienced in the world."

Credit: AP