News State NSW News Hawkesbury River seaplane involved in previous fatal crash

Hawkesbury River seaplane involved in previous fatal crash

hawkesbury seaplane
A seaplane crashed into the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney, killing all six people aboard. Photo: ABC
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The seaplane that crashed into a river north of Sydney on New Year’s Eve, killing all six people aboard, had reportedly been rebuilt after another fatal crash in the 1990s.

NSW police will attempt to recover the Sydney Seaplanes DHC-2 Beaver from the Hawkesbury River on Thursday in an operation that started at dawn and will run into the afternoon.

Experienced pilot Gareth Morgan died along with high-profile UK businessman Richard Cousins, his two adult sons Edward and William, his fiancèe Emma Bowden and her 11-year-old daughter Heather when the plane plunged into Jerusalem Bay on December 31.

The cause of the crash is still unclear, but Fairfax Media on Thursday reported the plane was previously ‘destroyed’ in another fatal crash in 1996.

The plane was being used as a crop duster when it cartwheeled and crashed at Armidale, killing the pilot and wrecking the plane, according to an Australian Transport Safety Bureau report cited by Fairfax.

The aircraft was rebuilt and has since been owned by several businesses including, most recently, Sydney Seaplanes.

Seaplanes Pilots Association vice-president Kevin Bowe told Fairfax that crashed planes were completely overhauled before re-use so they were as good as, or better than, new.

Aviation expert Neil Hansford on Thursday said the fuselage was probably the only original part left on the aircraft.

seaplane crash
The crash was witnessed by many boating in the area, including four men on a houseboat. Photo: ABC

“The engine on this particular aircraft has to come off every 1200 hours and this operator was pulling it off at 1100, and it’s basically returned to new,” he told ABC Radio.

Investigators are expected to use a floating crane to recover the plane, which is resting on its roof in about 15 metres of water, according to All Waterfront Constructions operations director Chris Kemp.

Mr Kemp, who will work to recover the aircraft, said two slings would be lowered and passed through the aircraft’s cabin by police divers.

“Then we’ll be lifting the whole lot up and placing it on the barge,” he told AAP.

“One of the wings is pretty badly damaged and bent over on the plane itself, so we’ll be pulling that back down and lashing it to the plane,” Mr Kemp said.

The ATSB is working to determine why the seaplane went down. One possibility is the plane stalled.

Aircraft maintenance engineer Michael Greenhill told AAP on Wednesday that while it was not mandatory in Australia for Beaver aircraft to have stall warnings installed, most did.

“A stall is when the airflow over the aircraft’s wing becomes insufficient enough to produce lift,” Mr Greenhill said.

A Canadian report, published in September 2017, recommended the warning system be mandatory on all Beavers.

“Even if the Beaver had this system fitted there’s a large possibility there would have been insufficient time to rectify the situation due to the low altitude and approaching terrain,” Mr Greenhill said.