Richard Cousins, the CEO of one of Britain’s biggest companies, and four of his family members were killed in Sydney, Australia on New Year’s Eve when their sightseeing seaplane plunged into a river, according to multiple reports.


Cousins, 58, was the chief executive of the world’s largest catering company, the Compass Group. According to Bloomberg, Cousins — who was ranked 11th in Harvard Business Review’s 2017 list of best-performing CEOs in the world — had intended to step down as Compass CEO in March.

The Briton was on a chartered sightseeing flight in Australia on Sunday afternoon with his fiancee, 48-year-old Emma Bowden; her daughter, 11-year-old Heather; and his sons, 23-year-old Edward and 25-year-old William, when their seaplane crashed into a river near Jerusalem Bay.

The group had been on a sightseeing tour with Sydney Seaplanes, a popular tour operator, reported The Guardian.

All six people on board, including the pilot, identified as 44-year-old Gareth Morgan, were killed, local police said in a statement.

The cause of the crash remains unknown but the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said it was launching an investigation into the accident.

The managing director for Sydney Seaplanes, Aaron Shaw, said the aircraft’s pilot had more than 10,000 hours of flying experience. The company, he added, had an “unblemished” flying record.

The weather on Sunday afternoon had been “perfect,” Shaw said, telling The Guardian that the company was cooperating with law enforcement in its investigation.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull offered his condolences to the loved ones of those who perished, calling the crash a “tragic accident.”

“Our hearts go out to the families of those whose lives were lost,” he said on Monday.

Paul Walsh, chairman of Compass, said in a statement that the company was “deeply shocked and saddened” by Cousins’ death. The late CEO, who had led Compass for 11 years, was “known and respected for his great humanity and a no-nonsense style that transformed Compass into one of Britain’s leading companies,” Walsh said.

Compass, which operates in about 50 countries, reported an annual revenue of $31 billion in 2017.

Several tragic aircraft crashes have made headlines this holiday season. On Christmas Eve, a Florida attorney and four members of his family, including his two daughters, died after their twin-engine plane crashed shortly after takeoff in Polk County. On New Year’s Eve, a plane carrying 10 American tourists, including a family of five, and two Costa Rican pilots crashed in northwestern Costa Rica, killing everyone on board. [/restrict]