SYDNEY (REUTERS, AFP) - A seaplane that crashed into an Australian river, killing five British tourists and the pilot, was recovered on Thursday (Jan 4) as reports emerged of the aircraft’s involvement in another deadly accident two decades ago.
The DHC-2 Beaver Seaplane, built in 1963, was returning from a restaurant on New Year’s Eve when it made a right turn and plunged into the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney. Richard Cousins, the 58-year-old boss of catering giant Compass, two sons Edward Cousins, 23, and William Cousins, 25, and his fiancee Emma Bowden, 48, and her 11-year-old daughter, Heather, died in the crash.The pilot, Gareth Morgan, 44, was also killed.
The family were on a short tourist flight, operated by Sydney Seaplanes, from a waterfront restaurant on the Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney, to Rose Bay in the city's east.
Police divers wrapped slings around the fuselage and a barge fitted with a small crane slowly lifted the wreck, upside down and without wings, from about 13m of water near Cowan, 40km north of Sydney.
The propeller, cockpit and front section of fuselage was crumpled, and the seaplane's landing floats were raised separately. The pieces were loaded on to the barge deck and covered with a tarpaulin, television pictures showed.
The wreckage will be examined, and investigators also hope to find personal phones or other electronic devices that may have been on board when the plane crashed, which could help to piece together what happened.
Air crash investigation records, first reported by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper on Thursday and reviewed by Reuters, show an airplane with the same serial number crashed 21 years earlier, when it was being used as a crop duster.
The 1996 Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) accident report found that the aircraft, a DHC-2 de Havilland Canada, likely stalled and that conditions were gusty when it crashed, killing the pilot.
"It was repaired after the accident and all appropriate approvals and checks were done. It was then re-registered and went back into service," a spokesman for Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority said in an e-mail.
The ATSB said it would examine the plane's history during the investigation. A spokesman for Sydney Seaplanes said the company had no comment while the investigation into the crash continues.
The business has operated since 2005 with no previous record of mishap. Its director, Mr Aaron Shaw, told reporters on Monday that the engines of its planes are regularly replaced, and the motor on the crashed aircraft had flown for only 200 hours.