News State NSW News Seaplane wreckage retrieved, family arrives to mourn

Seaplane wreckage retrieved, family arrives to mourn

hawkesbury river seaplane crash report
The wrecked seaplane is lifted from the water earlier this month. Photo: AAP
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On the day wreckage of the seaplane that crashed into a river north of Sydney was recovered, the brothers of one of the victims say they are grateful for the outpouring of “love and support”.

Simon and Andrew Cousins released a statement on Thursday stating they were thankful for the care shown after UK businessman Richard Cousins was killed on New Year’s Eve.

The 58-year-old died along with his two sons Edward and William, his fiancee Emma Bowden and her 11-year-old daughter, Heather, when the seaplane plunged into Jerusalem Bay on December 31.

Experienced Canadian pilot Gareth Morgan also died in the tragedy.

“We are fortunate and thankful for the outpouring of love and support we’ve received from across the world,” Simon and Andrew Cousins said.

We have now arrived in Australia and as the investigation continues we would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those involved for their dedication and commitment.”

The pair praised, in particular, Sydney water police and members of the public who helped on the day of the crash.

Richard Cousins was the chief executive of the world’s largest food catering company, Compass Group, and a keen cricket fan.

The body of the seaplane was lifted almost 15 metres from the riverbed onto a barge on Thursday afternoon.

The plane’s cabin was pulled to the surface about 1.45pm almost three hours after the floats and a damaged wing were first pulled from the water at Jerusalem Bay on the Hawkesbury River.

The recovery operation started at dawn and was conducted by water police. It involved specialist divers attaching slings to pieces of the plane before they were pulled up to the barge using a crane.

The wreckage of the DHC-2 Beaver has been taken by barge to Bayview where it will be placed on a truck and taken to a secure facility to be examined by Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigators.

They’ll “carefully assess all aspects related to the aircraft’s airworthiness”, a spokeswoman said in a statement, adding the bureau would “examine in detail the history of this aircraft”.

One of the seaplane’s wings is recovered. Photo: AAP

The DHC-2 Beaver was used as a crop duster near Armidale when its left wing hit the ground causing the plane to cartwheel and crash killing the pilot, a safety bureau report states.

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

Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokeswoman Peter Gibson told AAP the plane was repaired according to the manufacturer’s specifications and checked by qualified engineers.

“They submitted the paperwork and it was re-registered and away it went again,” Mr Gibson said on Thursday. “It was all done as it should have been done.”

The ATSB is working to determine why the seaplane went down on New Year’s Eve. One possibility is the plane stalled.

CASA has confirmed a stall warning system was not installed in the Beaver but neither was one required.

“We have no idea whether this was in fact caused by an aerodynamic stall or not,” Mr Gibson added.

A Canadian report, published in September 2017 following a fatal crash involving a DHC-2 Beaver, recommended that warning systems be made mandatory.

But aircraft maintenance engineer Michael Greenhill said this week “even if the Beaver (that crashed in NSW) 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”.

An ATSB preliminary report is expected to be completed by the end of January.