A BUSINESSMAN who grew up in Berkshire died with his family when the seaplane they were in crashed, an inquest heard. 

Richard Cousins, a former Brackenhale School student, was in a seaplane over Sydney Harbour with his sons Edward and William, along with his partner Emma Bowden and her 11-year-old daughter, Heather Bowden-Page, on New Year’s Eve when it crashed.

All five are believed to have died as a result of head injuries or drowning and a full investigation is currently being conducted by Australian authorities.

Peter Bedford, senior coroner for Berkshire, suspended his involvement at a preliminary hearing on February 12 at Reading Town Hall.

Canadian pilot Gareth Morgan is believed to have turned into the steep-sided Jerusalem Bay after taking off from nearby Cottage Point, around 25 miles north of the city centre.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and New South Wales coroner will handle the investigation before the Berkshire Coroner’s Office makes a decision on whether or not to hold a full inquest.

Mr Cousins, 58, lived in Tooting with his fiancee and her young daughter and he was the chief executive of Compass Group.

Edward, 23, and William, 25, both lived in Hide Heath, Buckinghamshire. 

Mr Bedford said: “I don’t think anybody could have failed to hear about the tragic incident involving a sea plane at the harbour in Sydney on New Year’s Eve.

“I propose to suspend my investigation under the Criminal Justice Act 2009. This allows me the power to suspend my investigation if another investigation into the deaths is being conducted.

“The New South Wales coroner is leading an ongoing investigation and she has access to the investigation by local authorities and that will involve an air crash investigator by a team of specialists.

“It will then fall to my office to consider whether or not a full inquest should take place here in Berkshire, using the outcome of the investigation from Australia.”

Mr Cousins is believed to have died of multiple blunt force injuries, while his fiancee and her daughter died due a combination of head injuries and drowning.

Edward Cousins is thought to have drowned, while his brother William suffered multiple head and facial injuries.

Investigators have said the 44-year-old pilot was “very familiar with the area” and would have known he would have been too low to clear the terrain when he entered the bay minutes after taking off at around 3pm.

Aaron Shaw, chief executive of operator Sydney Seaplanes, said the aircraft “simply should not have been where it was”.

“It is not a route we authorise in our landing and take-off area register and the plane simply should not have been where it was,” he said.

“Further, the aircraft is then reported to have entered in to an 80 to 90-degree bank angle turn.

“A turn of this nature at low altitude by a pilot with Gareth’s skills, experience and intimate knowledge of the location is totally inexplicable.”

The full inquest is not expected until after the ATSB has completed its full investigation, in around 12 months.