A major formal investigation is already underway, and a specialist team from the AAIB in the UK is said to be flying out to assist local investigators. There has been widespread media speculation as to the fitness and psychological make up of the highly experienced but sadly deceased pilot. This may appear to be intrusive, but these type of detailed 'personality profile' investigations are designed to rule out many factors and get to the prime cause of the accident. So should be viewed as a normal part of the overall investigation process. The well-respected pilot had clocked up substantial hours on this type of seaplane, and was considered a seasoned expert in water landing and take off protocols.
The managing director of Sydney Seaplanes, Mr Aaron Shaw said he was shocked at what he called a “tragic accident.” He [correctly in our view] declined to speculate on the cause of the accident and was working with police, Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Local media report that Sydney Seaplanes had completed thousands of these sightseeing and air taxi flights, reporting a previously “unblemished” safety record since it was founded in 2005.
The DHC-2 Beaver seaplane came down off Jerusalem Bay near Cowan, 25 miles north of Sydney centre, at about 3.10pm (4.10am GMT) on Sunday.
Detective Superintendent Mark Hutchings, head of the New South Wales marine area command, held a news conference the crash “can only be described [at this stage] as a tragic accident”.
“The circumstances of how the plane came to crash is currently under investigation,” he added.
“These people had come over on holiday to visit Australia, they were in one of the most beautiful parts of the world and for this to happen at a place like that is nothing more than just tragic.”
ATSB investigators travelled in from Canberra to plan the next stage of the salvage operation to recover the sea plane from the riverbed using a floating crane barge, divers recovering all the victims’ bodies on Sunday.
“The sequence of events leading up to the accident are not yet understood, however following the impact with the water, the aircraft is reported to have sunk rapidly,” the authority said.
Sydney Seaplanes issued a statement:
Yesterday there was a tragic accident involving one of Sydney Seaplanes aircraft in the Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney. As we know, all six people on the flight (5 passengers and 1 pilot) have lost their lives.
All at Sydney Seaplanes are deeply shocked by this incident and the resulting loss of life. We wish to pass on our heartfelt condolences to the Bowden and Cousins families and the family of our pilot Gareth Morgan who were tragically killed.
Gareth had worked for Sydney Seaplanes on two occasions, the first from 2011 to 2014, after which he went to fly seaplanes in the Maldives. He then returned to working for us in May 2017.
He was an extremely experienced pilot, with over 10,000 hours total time, of which approximately 9,000 hours was seaplane time.
On a personal level he was deeply respected and liked by me and all of the team here as a man and as a pilot. He flew my family and I to Palm Beach just before Christmas. We are devastated by his loss.
I have spoken to Gareth’s parents, who live in Canada and offered our deepest sympathies and we will support them in any way we can.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the NSW Police and all that were involved in the recovery yesterday, this would have been a harrowing task and we are extremely grateful to them for their work.
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