VANCOUVER – A Canadian pilot was killed in Australia on New Year’s Eve in a seaplane crash that also claimed the lives of a prominent British businessman and his family.
Tour company Sydney Seaplanes said Gareth Morgan was piloting the plane that crashed Sunday afternoon and a spokesman for the company said Morgan also held Australia citizenship.
Sydney Seaplanes CEO Aaron Shaw described Morgan as an “extremely experienced pilot” with more than 10,000 hours of flight time, including about 9,000 hours of seaplane time.
He said Morgan worked for Sydney Seaplanes on two occasions, the first from 2011 to 2014, after which he went to fly seaplanes in the Maldives before rejoining the company in May 2017.
“On a personal level, he was deeply respected and liked by me and all of the team here as a man and as a pilot,” Shaw said in a statement. “He flew my family and I to Palm Beach just before Christmas. We are devastated by his loss.”
Shaw said Morgan’s parents live in Canada and have been notified of his death.
“We will support them in any way we can,” he said.
Friends of Morgan confirmed he went to school in North Vancouver.
A Facebook memorial page has been created in honour of the pilot and friends have described him as kind and humble with a passion for flying.
“He was a devout Christian and a good man with a beautiful soul,” wrote Luke Thornley. “Gareth leaves behind a loving family, precious friends and all those whom he had a positive impact on through-out his life. There are many whom have been blessed by his presence, his spirit and his energy.”
Officials said Monday that Compass Group CEO Richard Cousins, his fiancee and her daughter, and his two sons died were also killed.
Cousins had recently been recognized by the Harvard Business Review for his performance as CEO of the multinational catering company. The 58-year-old planned to step down from his post in March.
Officials said the single-engine plane sank rapidly after crashing into the Hawkesbury River. The bodies have been recovered.
Australian Transport Safety Bureau executive director Nat Nagy said Tuesday that the plane was turning right shortly after takeoff when it crashed. Nagy declined to comment on the cause of the crash.
He said the plane — a de Havilland Beaver manufactured in 1963 — remains largely intact and will be raised this week.
Sydney Seaplanes has suspended its flights as the crash is investigated.
— With files from The Associated Press