Photographs taken by a British millionaire’s son moments before a seaplane crashed, killing all six people on board, have revealed the passengers’ final moments.
Businessman Ricard Cousins, four members of his family and Canadian pilot Gareth Morgan died on New Year’s Eve 2017 after the Sydney Seaplanes aircraft veered 1km off course and crash-landed in the Hawkesbury River, north of the city.
Six images have been retrieved from Richard’s son William’s digital camera, a Canon EOS 40D, which was recovered from the wreckage.
Photographs taken on a passenger’s camera reveal a seaplane’s final moments before it nosedived into the Hawkesbury River killing all six people on board
British businessman Richard Cousins, four members of his family and Canadian pilot Gareth Morgan died on New Year’s Eve, last year, after the Sydney Seaplanes aircraft veered 1km off course
The crash killed experienced pilot Gareth Morgan (left), 44, and high-profile UK businessman Richard Cousins (right), 58
Mr Cousins had been on board with his son William, 25, fiancee Emma Bowden, his other son Edward and Ms Bowden’s daughter Heather.
William’s final picture shows the moment the plane began leaving its intended flight path from Cottage Point to Jerusalem Bay, where it crashed.
The images suggest pilot Gareth Morgan, 44, may have been disoriented, distracted or incapacitated before the plane went down.
The lightweight plane was bound for Sydney’s Rose Bay and wasn’t required to carry a cockpit voice or flight data recorder, leaving investigators to determine the plane’s fatal flight path from photographs and witness accounts.
Mr Morgan was a very experienced pilot and had flown the course more than 500 times before with Sydney Seaplanes.
ATSB officials have previously likened the plane’s unusual course to someone turning into a dead-end street instead of onto the freeway.
Victims Emma Bowden, 48, and her 11-year-old daughter Heather in front of Sydney Opera House days before the doomed 1960s single-engine DHC-2 Beaver plane plunged into the Hawksbury River
Mr Cousins’ sons Edward, 23 (left) and William, 25 (right) were also killed when their seaplane plunged into the Hawkesbury River
The plane took a right-hand turn off the usual flight path at Little Shark Rock Point and looped towards Jerusalem Bay where it then fell towards the Hawkesbury River.
‘It is important to note that the ATSB’s investigation into this tragic accident is ongoing, so we are constrained on the information we can release publicly at this time,’ ATSB executive director Nat Nagy said in a statement.
‘However, the interim report does provide a factual update on the investigation so far.’
The images were taken in under a minute with the last image being snapped when the plane went off its intended course.
The images were taken in under a minute with the last image being snapped when the plane went off its intended course
Pictures show the wreckage of the Sydney Seaplane which crashed into a river on New Years Eve killing all six people on board being pulled out of the water
Investigators are now looking into factors surrounding the pilot’s health and medical history due to the discovery of the images.
It has also raised discussion about where flight recording systems should be fitted to lightweight planes operating passenger services.
The results from an aviation medical specialist’s review of the Mr Gareth’s medical records and autopsy are expected in early 2019.
Sydney Seaplanes chief executive Aaron Shaw on Thursday said the company was pleased the investigation had found the aircraft was in excellent condition and the pilot was highly qualified.
Witness photographs show the aircraft turning near Hole in the Wall, off it’s usual course
Investigators are now looking into factors surrounding the pilot’s health and medical history due to the discovery of the images
Mr Shaw also noted regulators highly praised its operation during a safety audit three months prior to the crash.
The route the seaplane took is a popular choice for tourists who want to take in Sydney’s beauty from above.
Just seven months prior to the fatal crash, Pippa Middleton and her husband James Matthews flew on the same seaplane during their honeymoon.
The couple took the same trip on the De Havilland DHC-2 Beaver to an exclusive river restaurant north of Sydney.
Other A-listers to take to the skies over scenic New South Wales with the company include Ed Sheeran, Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates.
WHAT HAPPENED ON NEW YEAR’S EVE 2017 TO THE SYDNEY SEAPLANE?
3.00pm – British businessman Richard Cousins, four members of his family and Canadian pilot Gareth Morgan board an eight-seater seaplane at Cottage Point to return to Rose Bay.
3.05pm – Flight starts taxiing towards Cowan Creek take-off area for the planned 35-minute flight south to Sydney.
3.11pm – Flight lifts off the water. A photograph from the front seat passenger’s recovered camera reveals the DHC-2 Beaver is airborne and heading northeast.
3.12pm – A person on the water takes a photo of the seaplane as it heads east towards the Hawkesbury River where it was expected to rise above the terrain and turn south to Rose Bay.
3.12pm – A final picture is taken by the passenger at Little Shark Rock Point moments before the plane turns and heads west.
3.13pm – Several witnesses see the plane head ‘directly’ towards Jerusalem Bay – a long and narrow stretch of water surrounded by steep terrain.
– Minutes later witnesses see the plane, now 1.75km from where it turned west, make a sharp right turn and nosedive into the water.
– ‘The aircraft collided with the water in a near vertical position,’ air crash investigators say.
Source: Australian Transport Safety Bureau interim factual report
Newlyweds Pippa Middleton and James Matthews (right) alight the De Havilland DHC-2 seaplane which crashed on Sunday during their honeymoon in Sydney on May 31