Tuesday 23 July 2019

'Missed beyond words'- tributes paid to family killed in New Year's Eve seaplane crash

Richard Cousins died in a seaplane crash on New Year's Eve alongside his fiancee, his two sons and her 11-year-old daughter
Richard Cousins died in a seaplane crash on New Year's Eve alongside his fiancee, his two sons and her 11-year-old daughter

Ellie Cullen

Tributes have been paid to a British family - including a high-profile businessman and an 11-year-old girl - after they were killed in a seaplane crash in Sydney on New Year's Eve.

Richard Cousins, the 58-year-old chief executive of FTSE 100 company Compass Group, died alongside his sons Will and Edward, aged 25 and 23, his fiancee Emma Bowden, 48, and her young daughter Heather while they were on holiday in Australia.

The group were were on a return flight to Sydney's Rose Bay, close to Sydney Harbour, when the small aircraft apparently nose-dived into the Hawkesbury River off Jerusalem Bay, 25 miles north of Sydney city centre, at about 3.10pm (4.10am GMT) on Sunday.

A sixth person on board, Sydney Seaplanes pilot Gareth Morgan, 44, also died.

Friends and colleagues described Mr Cousins as "well known and respected" after he helped transform Compass' fortunes upon becoming the ailing catering firm's boss in 2006. He had been due to step down from the role in March this year.

Paul Walsh, Compass chairman, said: "It has been a great privilege to know Richard personally and to work with him for the last few years.

"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' son Will was head of press for campaigners Open Britain, and was described by the group's chairman Roland Rudd as an "extraordinary young man" who would be "missed beyond words".

Neighbours at the family home in Tooting, south-west London, described how "distraught" relatives were seen entering the property on Sunday after hearing the news.

Resident Lata Maisuria, a neighbour who has lived in the area for over 30 years, said the tragic holidaymakers were a "happy-go-lucky" family, and that neighbours would be shocked by their death.

She said Heather had recently started at a local secondary school.

"She seemed happy there," Ms Maisuria said.

"I asked the daughter a couple of times how she was liking it, and she seems to have fitted in nicely at the school, and she seemed to be very happy.

"She really wanted to go to that school, she was looking forward to it."

Terry Spry, 71, said the family were "lovely, charming" people.

Another neighbour said they "seemed very nice people".

"When he saw us, every time he'd say hello and talk with us," she said.

She added that Ms Bowden was a "very nice lady".

Surrey County Cricket Club chief executive Richard Gould also paid tribute to businessman Mr Cousins, who was passionate about the sport.

Mr Gould said: "Richard was a regular and very popular visitor to the Kia Oval, and a great supporter of cricket.

"He was a member of all 18 first-class counties.

"This is a tragic incident."

Investigators with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said the aircraft is thought to have "sunk rapidly" upon impact. The bodies of those on board have since been recovered.

About 10 recreational boats were believed to have been in the area at the time of the incident, and police have appealed for anyone who may have seen what happened to come forward.

Detective Superintendent Mark Hutchings, head of the New South Wales marine area command, told a press conference the crash "can only be described as a tragic accident".

He added: "These people had come over on holiday to one of the most beautiful parts of the world, and for this to happen at a place like this is just tragic."

Sydney Seaplanes, which has flown passengers including singer Ed Sheeran and Pippa Middleton and her husband James Matthews, said it was "deeply shocked" by the "tragic accident".

The company has suspended its flights while the crash is investigated.

Lisa Byrne described Ms Bowden - her friend and former colleague at OK! Magazine - as the "Grace Kelly" of the office.

Mrs Byrne, 47, the former editor-in-chief, told the Press Association: "She quite regal, very serene, and very well educated.

"My first impressions of her were that she was lovely - a very kind person.

"She was such a wonderful, calming influence in the office, and I never heard her grumble.

"Her absolute main priority was her daughter Heather.

"My heart just goes out to their families and their loved ones - this (the crash) has just been awful. I'm just utterly devastated really."

Ms Bowden was OK!'s arts editor and had been with the magazine for almost 15 years.

Kirsty Tyler, OK! Magazine's editor said: "All the staff at OK! Magazine are deeply shocked and saddened to hear about this terrible tragedy. We would like to extend our heartfelt sympathy to all Emma's family and friends.

"Emma was a popular and long-standing member of staff at OK! Magazine and she will be greatly missed by us all."

The University of St Andrews confirmed that Edward Cousins was a graduate of the Fife institution, gaining his degree in the summer of 2017.

A spokeswoman said: "Edward graduated with a degree in history last summer and had a bright future ahead of him.

"Everyone at the university who knew him will be shocked and saddened by this news.

"Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this very difficult time."

A neighbour to Mr Cousins' previous home in Buckinghamshire told Mail Online that his first wife Caroline had died of cancer less than three years ago, saying: "She had told him to find somebody else. The family had gone through the dreadful loss of Caroline."

Ian Thorpe said his sister Caroline had been happily married to Mr Cousins right up to the day that she died.

He told Sky News: "Richard was great to be with but there was always that toughness about the man.

"He always knew where he was going and he achieved it, and for that I am very proud of him.

"He was always very loving. He made my sister very happy. They had some fantastic holidays.

"I am extremely proud of him to have had a fantastic relationship with my sister and to have made her so happy until the day she died."

Mr Thorpe described his nephews as kind and "wonderful fellas" who were "fabulous, well-mannered and brought up properly".

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