POLICE have named the six people who died when their seaplane crashed at Cowan Creek near the Hawkesbury River in Sydney's north yesterday.
The pilot of the Sydney Seaplanes' aircraft has been identified as 44-year-old Gareth Morgan, who police today described as "an experienced seaplane pilot".
The passengers were Richard Cousins, 58, and his fiance Emma Bowden, 48. Emma's daughter Heather, aged 11, and Richard's sons Edward and William Cousins, aged 23 and 25.
The new family from Britain, were enjoying a New Year's Eve joy ride when their plane crashed at Cowan Creek at Jerusalem Bay, shortly after heading off on the return trip from Cottage Point.
Richard Cousins, a cricket tragic and boss of the world's largest catering group, was on the trip of a lifetime.
A statement from his company, Compass Group, said: "It is with deep sadness that we can confirm that our Group Chief Executive, Richard Cousins and four members of his close family have died in a plane accident in Australia on 31 December 2017.
Paul Walsh, Compass Group Chairman, said: "We are deeply shocked and saddened by this terrible news. The thoughts of everyone at Compass are with Richard's family and friends, and we extend our deepest sympathies to them.
"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, 58, was named at number 11 on the 100 Harvard Business Review's Best Performing CEOs in the World.
Before leaving for Australia he had just announced his retirement after 11 years in charge of listed catering giant Compass. He was held is such high regard that the announcement in September caused the share price to drop.
He had been previously tipped to take over as the chairman of UK supermarket giant Tesco last year but resigned from the board last year in protest at plans to buy wholesaler Booker.
Mr Cousins, who was born in Yorkshire, did a degree in mathematics and has been praised by colleagues for his analytical approach to problems with a no-nonsense style and marked lack of ego.
The pilot, Gareth Morgan, has been described as a very experience and well-regarded pilot who had flown in the harsh conditions of the Arctic before moving to Sydney.
The Canadian spoke of his love of flying in an interview with one of his clients at Sydney Seaplanes which was posted on Youtube.
"My dad's friend back in Vancouver owned a plane and he took me up a couple of times, kind of got me hooked," Mr Morgan, 44, said.
"That was in my early 20s...I thought this looks like a great career."
But he said it took him 18 months to land his first job. It was with a company in British Columbia that flew people on fishing trips.
The next season he went back and "they cut me loose on the aircraft."
He spent five summers flying with them before moving to the Arctic flying twin-engine Otters.
"Great aircraft, you do some amazing flying in the Arctic," he said.
Police dive crews, meanwhile, are preparing to refloat the wreckage of the seaplane.
The plane will need to be brought back to the surface before forensic air-crash investigators can piece together what went wrong.
Emergency services including the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter were called to the scene and a search and rescue operation was immediately launched to locate the plane, which is 13 metres underwater. They recovered the last of the six bodies as night fell.
The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter found an oil slick and several items of debris on the surface of Cowan Creek, spokesman Stephen Leahy told AAP. "There appeared to be a silhouette or outline of a small aircraft but it appeared to be submerged in deep water," he said.
"It was certainly too deep for us to access it and that's why the police divers have been called in." The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has announced it will investigate the incident.
The company, which has been operating for 80 years, provides flights above and around some of Sydney's most popular tourist sites including the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Pittwater and the Hawkesbury River region.