CEO killed in seaplane crash sent out wedding invitations days before family tragedy

Mel Buttigieg

The UK businessman and his fiancée killed with family, in the New Year’s Eve seaplane crash north of Sydney, had sent out wedding invitations days before the tragedy.

Richard Cousins, 58, his fiancée Emma Bowden, 48, her daughter Heather Bowden-Page, 11, Mr Cousin’s sons Edward, 23, and William, 25, and their experienced pilot Gareth Morgan, 44, all died when their plane nosedived into the Hawkesbury River.

Mr Cousins recently announced his retirement from the world's largest food catering company, Compass Group, after 11 years as CEO, telling friends he was looking forward to a new chapter in his professional and personal life.

Richard Cousins reportedly announced his retirement as CEO of the world's largest food catering company, Compass Group, and planned a new life with his fiancée. Source: Getty

The multi-millionaire had fallen in love with Ms Bowden, after losing his wife Caroline to cancer, aged 55, less than three years ago, after 32 years together.

The pair were set to be married in July this year.

“Caroline and Richard had 32 very happy years together moving all around the country, starting in Shropshire via Canada and Scotland,” Mr Cousins’ brother in law, Ian Thorpe told the Daily Telegraph.

“Richard was devastated when he lost her but he was also so happy that he met Emma, they became friends, got on really well and became engaged.”

According to the Sun, Mr Cousins' late wife urged him to “find someone else” when she was diagnosed with the terminal disease.

Emma Bowden was due to wed Mr Cousins in July. Source: Supplied

In a further tragic turn of events, the family of five perished the day before his late wife’s birthday.

“It would have been her birthday today,” Mr Thorpe said of his sister, on January 1.

“I’d just woken up and gone downstairs and said ‘happy birthday’ to her memory as I have each year since she died when I got a text with the terrible news.”

Emma Bowden, 48, and her daughter Heather Bowden-Page, 11, also died in the crash. Source: Facebook

Ms Bowden was an art director at OK! magazine.

The magazine's editor Lisa Byrne described her as "serene, regal, and very kind".

“She was absolutely lovely, very much into her family and friends and daughter Heather who she adored,” she told the Daily Telegraph.

Brothers Edward Cousin, 23, and William Cousin, 25 were also onboard. Source: Supplied

The family were on holiday in Sydney and were returning from lunch at the picturesque Cottage Point Inn when the crash happened.

They ate lunch at Cottage Point Inn, before setting out on the the single-engine 1964 DHC-2 Beaver seaplane, to return to the Rose Bay terminal in Sydney's east.

But shortly after the plane took off, about 3.15pm, something went wrong and the plane plunged into Jerusalem Bay.

Experienced pilot Gareth Morgan, 44, was said to have flown the route hundreds of times. Source: Sydney Seaplanes

Sydney Seaplanes has suspended all flights indefinitely in the wake of the tragedy.

Representatives from the Cousins family will travel to Australia in the coming days.

The plane has not yet been recovered from the crash site at Cowan and is sitting upside-down about 13 metres below the surface. It could take most of this week to recover the wreckage, police say.

Final moments of the plane before it plunged into the water. Source: 7 News

It will need to be refloated until forensic investigators can piece together what went wrong.

Police will work with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to determine the cause of the crash.