An accident investigator said on Tuesday the wreckage of a seaplane that crashed north of Sydney would be raised from the river this week. But investigators have offered no clues to the cause of the crash that killed the Canadian pilot and his five British passengers.
Compass Group chief executive Richard Cousins, 58, his fiancee Emma Bowden, 48, her 11-year-old daughter Heather Bowden-Page and his two sons William, 25, and Edward, 23, were killed in the crash Sunday, along with experienced pilot Gareth Morgan, 44.
The de Havilland Beaver, manufactured in 1963, crashed into the Hawkesbury River on a return flight to Sydney after a New Year’s Eve lunch.
The plane was turning right shortly after takeoff when it crashed, Australian Transport Safety Bureau executive director Nat Nagy told reporters. Nagy declined to comment on the potential causes.
The plane remained largely intact and was lying upside down and nose-first on the river bed under 13 meters (43 feet) of water, Nagy said. Police divers retrieved the bodies within hours of the crash.
“It’s our hope that we will be able to raise the aircraft to the surface by the end of this week,” Nagy said. ‘The key goal for us is to try and keep the aircraft as intact as possible so that then we’re able to thoroughly examine the various components on board the aircraft.”
An investigation team is questioning witnesses about the events leading to the crash and hope to retrieve images from phones or cameras that might be in the wreckage, Nagy said.
Witness Will McGovern told Australian Broadcasting Corp. that only the plane’s tail was protruding from the water when he reached the scene by boat. Several men dived into a fuel slick in attempts to free the victims, McGovern said.
Kurt Bratby, another witness on the river, estimated the plane sank in five minutes and would-be rescuers repeatedly dived under the water in vain.