'Wonderful people': Tributes flow for family, pilot killed in New Year's Eve seaplane tragedy

Mel Buttigieg

The UK family killed in a tragic seaplane crash on New Year's Eve have been described as 'wonderful people' as tributes start to pour in for them.

Multi-millionaire Richard Cousins and his family were on the trip of a lifetime when the seaplane they were travelling in crashed into the Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney on New Year’s Eve.

The high-profile UK businessman, 58, his fiancee 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 in the crash.

Mr Cousins was the CEO of the world's largest food catering company, Compass Group, and Ms Bowden was the arts director for OK! magazine.

Richard Cousins was the CEO of the world's largest food catering company Compass Group. Source: Getty

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

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.

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

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

Describing Mr Morgan as a "lovely and gentle guy", Sydney Seaplanes managing director Aaron Shaw offered his condolences to the victims' families.

"We are all absolutely devastated at his loss and ringing his parents today was obviously one of the worst calls that I have ever had to make in my life and they are really sad and devastated by his loss," Mr Shaw said on Monday.

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

Flying conditions on Sunday afternoon were perfect and in the moments before the crash, there were no obvious signs of distress, and no mayday call was made.

Mr Shaw said the experienced Canadian pilot had flown the route from Cottage Point to Rose Bay "hundreds of times".

Paul Walsh, Compass Group chairman, said the company was "deeply shocked and saddened by this terrible news".

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

"The thoughts of everyone at Compass are with Richard's family and friends, and we extend our deepest sympathies to them," he said.

"Richard was known and respected for his great humanity and a no-nonsense style that transformed Compass into one of Britain's leading companies."

Ms Bowden's colleagues described her as "serene, regal, and very kind".

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

William Cousins, a leading anti-Brexit campaigner, was remembered as "an extraordinary young man".

Chairman for The Open Britain campaign - the successor to the official Stronger In drive during the EU referendum - Roland Rudd said the group “lost part of our soul today”.

“All of us at Open Britain are devastated by the tragic loss of Will and his family," Mr Rudd said.

Police divers recovered the six bodies on Monday. Source: 7 News

His younger brother Edward planned to join the police force.

Their uncle Ian Thorpe had nothing but praise for the family.

"They've been very kind and I've been thrilled to have known them," he told Sky News.

"They've been wonderful people and I can't speak highly enough of any of them."

Search and rescue vessels arrived at the scene on Sunday. Source: 7 News

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.

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.