Richard Cousins, the 58-year-old chief executive of FTSE 100 company Compass Group, died alongside his sons Will and Edward, aged 25 and 23, his fiancée Emma Bowden, 48, and her young daughter Heather while they were on holiday in Australia.
The group 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.
A sixth person on board, Sydney Seaplanes pilot Gareth Morgan, 44, also died.
Friends and colleagues described Mr Cousins 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 this year.
Paul Walsh, Compass 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”.
Neighbours at the family home in Tooting, south-west London, described how “distraught” relatives were seen entering the property on Sunday after hearing the news.
Resident Lata Maisuria, a neighbour who has lived in the area for over 30 years, said the tragic holidaymakers were a “happy-go-lucky” family, and that neighbours would be shocked by their death.
She said Heather had recently started at a local secondary school.
“She seemed happy there,” Ms Maisuria said.
“I asked the daughter a couple of times how she was liking it, and she seems to have fitted in nicely at the school, and she seemed to be very happy.
“She really wanted to go to that school, she was looking forward to it.”
Terry Spry, 71, said the family were “lovely, charming” people.
The aircraft is thought to have “sunk rapidly” upon impact. Detective Superintendent Mark Hutchings, said the crash “can only be described as a tragic accident”.