Millionaire and family died in plane crash after carbon monoxide leak

Millionaire British catering tycoon, 58, and his family died in seaplane crash after pilot became ‘disorientated’ from carbon monoxide leak and aircraft plunged into Sydney river, inquest hears

  • Gareth Morgan was killed in horror crash in 2017 alongside five other passengers
  • Richard Cousins, his fiancée, and their children did not survive the accident
  • Investigation confirmed pilot was confused and disoriented from poisonous gas
  • Report that exhaust gas leaked into cabin, poisoning pilot and passengers

A British businessman and his family were killed in a horror Sydney seaplane crash after a poisonous exhaust leak left the pilot disorientated and confused.

The chief executive of the world’s largest contract catering company Richard Cousins, his two sons, fiancée and her 11-year-old daughter were instantly killed when a 2017 New Year’s Eve sightseeing trip in Australia ended in tragedy.

The pilot 44-year-old Gareth Morgan also died when they plunged into the Hawkesbury River off Jerusalem Bay, after picking the family up from an exclusive restaurant.

An inquest heard how the ‘experienced’ pilot of the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver plane carrying the five Britons was left confused, disoriented and visually disturbed by poisonous carbon monoxide fumes that had leaked into the cabin.

‘It is very likely leaked carbon monoxide entered the cabin through holes in the firewall where three bolts were missing. It would have significantly degraded the pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft,’ a coroner heard.


Richard Cousins, 58, a millionaire CEO, his fiancée Emma Bowden, 48 died in the accident (pictured)

Ms Bowden’s 11-year-old daughter Heather also died in the tragic incident

Sitting at Berkshire Coroners’ Court, Ms Alison McCormick heard how the aircraft entered a confined bay with ‘no need’ to be there, before the pilot attempted a steep turn and aerodynamically stalled, before colliding with the water and fatally injuring all on board.

After a post-mortem examination, an Australian pathologist confirmed that art editor and fiancée Emma Bowden and her 11-year-old daughter Heather, who lived in Tooting, London, had died from combined effects of head injury and drowning.

Chief executive of FTSE 100 company Compass, Richard Cousins cause of death was confirmed as ‘multiple blunt force injuries’ while his son 23-year-old regional manager Edward died from drowning. 


Edward, his 23-year-old regional manager son, died alongside political lobbyist William, 25

Pilot 44-year-old Gareth Morgan also died when the plane crashed when fumes overcame him

NSW police and salvage personnel work to recover the wreckage of a seaplane that crashed into Jerusalem Bay, north of Sydney, Thursday, January 4, 2018

TIMELINE OF EVENTS 

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

Political lobbyist 25-year-old William, of Lane Gate Cottage Weedon Hill Past The Green, Hyde Heath, Bucks, died from ‘head and facial injuries,’ the assistant coroner heard today.

Coroner Ms McCormick said: ‘All of the deceased lived in England, London and Buckinghamshire. They were together in Australia over New Years 2017 to 2018.

‘All five were passengers on a return chartered flight from Cottage Point to Rose Bay.

‘The plane entered a confined area, it made a steep turn and collided with the water. Everybody on the plane died at the scene.

‘I accept the detailed Australian Transport Safety Bureau report, the crash occurred because the plane entered a confined area, there was no need for it to be operating in Jerusalem Bay and it did not continue to climb.

‘Although it was possible to turn and land, the plane aerodynamically stalled.

‘The pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft was significantly reduced by reasons of high levels of carbon monoxide in the cabin.

‘This was increased by the 27-minute taxi with the pilot’s door ajar before the five passengers boarded.

‘The pilot was likely disorientated and this adversely affected his ability to fly the plane safely.

‘Although it had a carbon monoxide detector, it was affected by sun bleaching as it needs the pilot to register a change in colour.’

The coroner concluded a verdict of accidental death for the family of five who died on December 31 2017.

She added: ‘At a time when they should have been having fun, what should have been a treat turned into a real tragedy.’

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