Uncle of Australia seaplane crash victims: 'It's wiped out my family'

1 January 2018, 01:55

The uncle of two men killed in a seaplane crash near Sydney on New Year's Eve has paid tribute to the victims, saying his family had been "wiped out".

The crash killed Richard Cousins, the chief executive of Compass, the world's largest contract catering company; his fiancee Emma Bowden, 48; and his two sons, Edward, 23 and William, 25.

The fifth British victim was Ms Bowden's daughter Heather, who was 11 years old.

The plane came down in the Hawkesbury River off Jerusalem Bay, killing all those on board.

Ian Thorpe, the brother of Mr Cousins' first wife Caroline, told Sky News his former brother-in-law and nephews were "a very close knit-unit" and that he "would miss them terribly".

Mr Thorpe said the crash has "wiped out nearly all my family", leaving him with just his 14-year-old daughter.

He talked about Mr Cousins, 58, who was due to step down from his company position at Compass, in March, as "determined" and a "real credit".

Calling his nephews "the boys", he said they "had the world at their feet".

"I look back and I'm very proud of all of them," he said of his family.

"I feel thrilled to have known them, they've been wonderful people."

"It's a "huge shock knowing they're no longer there. I never thought I'd start 2018 like this. Never ever."

Gareth Morgan, the Australian pilot, was the sixth person to die in the crash - with officials describing the Sydney Seaplanes employee as "experienced".

William Cousins had worked for Open Britain, a pro-EU group set up in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum.

The group's chairman, Roland Rudd, paid tribute to him saying: "Will was an extraordinary young man who was passionate about what he did; who took deep pride in his work; and came into the office every day with enthusiasm, energy and determination."

"All of us at Open Britain are devastated by the tragic loss of Will and his family."

Detective Superintendent Mark Hutchings, from New South Wales Police, told reporters the family had been visiting from the UK.

He said: "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."

Mr Hutchings has appealed for any witnesses to come forward, as 10 recreational boats were believed to be in the area at the time.

An investigation into the deadly crash has begun - but although a preliminary report is expected within 30 days, officials have warned it may take up to a year to find out what happened.

Work is continuing to recover the wreckage of the plane, which is submerged in 13m (42ft) of water.

A spokeswoman from the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: "We are providing consular assistance to the families of five British tourists who have sadly died in a seaplane accident near Sydney.

"Our sympathies are with their families and friends at this difficult time."

Sydney Seaplanes, which has flown passengers including Ed Sheeran and Pippa Middleton in the past, has cancelled flights until further notice.

The company said it was "deeply shocked" by the incident, with managing director Aaron Shaw adding: "We wish to pass on our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the passengers and pilot who were tragically killed."