MELBOURNE • The chief executive of Compass Group, the world's biggest catering firm, his fiancee, her daughter, and his two sons were among the six people killed when the seaplane they were flying in crashed into a Sydney river on New Year's Eve.
Mr Richard Cousins, 58, CEO of the British-based catering and food services giant, died alongside Ms Emma Bowden, 48, Heather Bowden, 11, Mr Edward Cousins, 23, and Mr William Cousins, 25, according to Detective Superintendent Mark Hutchings from the New South Wales Police.
The plane's Australian pilot Gareth Morgan, 44, also died in the crash.
The group had lunch on Sunday at Cottage Point Inn, north of Sydney, before boarding the plane to return to Rose Bay terminal in Sydney's east, according to Brisbane Times.
But shortly after takeoff, the plane crashed into Jerusalem Bay, killing the five and the pilot.
Mr Cousins had been due to retire on March 31. Compass said its new CEO Dominic Blakemore would start yesterday instead of April 1 as originally planned, after the news.
Supt Hutchings said that police had already been in contact with the British authorities.
He was also quoted by Britain's Telegraph newspaper as saying: "They were in one of the most beautiful parts of the world and for this to happen to them at a place like this is nothing more than just tragic… The circumstances of how the plane came to crash is currently under investigation."
Compass chairman Paul Walsh said in a statement yesterday: "The thoughts of everyone at Compass are with Richard's family and friends, and we extend our deepest sympathies to them.
"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 led Compass over the past 11 years after his decision to quit as senior independent director of supermarket giant Tesco.
He had been widely credited with turning the company's business around and turning Compass into one of the FTSE 100's best-performing firms.
He had also been named as one of the world's best-performing CEOs by Harvard Business Review.
Police are working with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to recover the wreckage of the plane, which is submerged in 13m of water near Cowan, north of Sydney.
A probe into the cause of the crash has begun, with a preliminary report expected within 30 days.
The authorities have warned that it may take up to a year to find out what happened.
The seaplane was part of the Sydney Seaplanes business that has operated since 2005 with no previous record of accident. Seaplane flights have been cancelled until further notice.