Compass CEO's Fatal Sydney Flight Veered Off Course Before Crash

(Bloomberg) -- The Sydney seaplane that crashed and killed the head of Compass Group Plc last year flew off its typical fight path shortly after takeoff before nosediving into the water, according to an interim report into the incident.

The cause of the tragedy in the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney on Dec. 31, which killed 58-year-old Richard Cousins, four members of his close family and the pilot, remains unknown. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said Thursday it’s continuing its probe.

Compass CEO's Fatal Sydney Flight Veered Off Course Before Crash

Investigators pieced together the charter plane’s route with the help of witnesses on the water and photographs taken by one of the passengers moments before the crash. The aircraft was seen heading into an inlet, off the normal route for that flight, and below the height of nearby terrain, the ATSB said. The engine sounded constant and normal, witnesses told investigators.

The plane flew on for less than 2 kilometers before banking steeply to the right and smashing into the water in a near-vertical position. The impact sent the fuselage into a cartwheel and the aircraft came to rest upside down with the cabin submerged. All six occupants received fatal injuries, the report said.

The disaster temporarily shut down Sydney Seaplanes, which flies 27,000 passengers a year on scenic flights around the city. Cousins and his family had flown north from the harbor to eat at a restaurant on the banks of the Hawkesbury River. They were minutes into their return leg when the plane went down.

An examination of the wreckage indicated there were no issues with control of the airplane during the flight, the report said. The ATSB also investigated a fatal accident involving the same aircraft in 1996, when it was configured for agriculture work. There was nothing to indicate the rebuild had any connection with last year’s accident, according to the report.

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