Tributes paid to family killed in seaplane tragedy

A British family including a high-profile businessman, an 11-year-old girl and a campaigner against Brexit were killed in a seaplane crash in Sydney on New Year's Eve.

Richard Cousins. Picture: Contributed.
Richard Cousins. Picture: Contributed.

A British family including a high-profile businessman, an 11-year-old girl and a campaigner against Brexit were killed in a seaplane crash in Sydney on New Year’s Eve.

Richard Cousins, 58, the 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.

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The group were on a return flight to Sydney’s Rose Bay, near the city’s famous 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 local time 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’s son Will was head of press for campaign group Open Britain, and was described by the organisation’s chairman Roland Rudd as an “extraordinary young man” who would be “missed beyond words”.

Surrey County Cricket Club chief executive Richard Gould also paid tribute to businessman Mr Cousins, who was passionate about the sport.

Mr Gould said: “Richard was a regular and very popular visitor to the Kia Oval, and a great supporter of cricket. He was a member of all 18 first-class counties. This is a tragic incident.”

Investigators with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said the aircraft is thought to have “sunk rapidly” upon impact. The bodies of those on board have since been recovered.

Lisa Byrne described Ms Bowden – her friend and former colleague at OK! Magazine – as the “Grace Kelly” of the office.

Mrs Byrne, 47, the former editor-in-chief, said of Ms Bowden: “She was quite regal, very serene … She was such a wonderful, calming influence in the office, and I never heard her grumble.

“Her absolute main priority was her daughter Heather.

“My heart just goes out to their families and their loved ones.”

Ms Bowden was OK!’s arts editor and had been with the magazine for almost 15 years.

Kirsty Tyler, OK! Magazine’s editor said: “All the staff are deeply shocked and saddened to hear about this terrible tragedy. We would like to extend our heartfelt sympathy to all Emma’s family and friends.

About ten recreational boats were believed to have been in the area at the time of the incident, and police have appealed for witnesses to come forward.

Detective Superintendent Mark Hutchins, head of the New South Wales marine area command, said the crash “can only be described as a tragic accident”.

Sydney Seaplanes said it was “deeply shocked” by the “tragic accident”. The company has suspended its flights while the crash is investigated.