SYDNEY: The seaplane was returning from a New Year’s Eve lunch at a picturesque restaurant on the NSW Hawkesbury river when something caused it to plunge into the water and rapidly sink, killing all six aboard.
The Sydney Seaplanes aircraft was carrying a pilot and five passengers when it crashed at Cowan Creek, Jerusalem Bay east of Cowan about 3pm on Sunday.
Police divers recovered six bodies soon after.
The operator, Sydney Seaplanes, said it was “deeply shocked” by the tragic accident and had suspended all operations until further notice.
“We wish to pass on our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the passengers and pilot who were tragically killed,” managing director Aaron Shaw said in a statement.
“We do not yet know the cause of the accident.
“We are dedicating our full resources in assisting the NSW Police, the Australian Transport Safety Board, Civil Aviation Safety Authority and other relevant authorities to understand the cause of the accident.”
The British Foreign office was in touch with Australian officials amid reports that UK nationals died in the crash.
“Officials from the British consulate are in contact with local authorities in relation to a sea plane accident near Sydney,” a spokeswoman said.
“We stand ready to provide consular assistance.”
Superintendent Michael Gorman told reporters on the scene on Sunday the passengers had been returning to Sydney after dining at a restaurant on the Hawkesbury.
The plane was believed to have been travelling from the Cottage Point Inn to Rose Bay, Supt Gorman said.
Myles Baptiste told the Nine Network he saw the plane flying towards him about 500 metres away when it hit the water.
“It made a tight right-hand turn and as it actually turned around, the wings dipped and it nosedived straight into the water,” he said.
The plane, will remain submerged 13 metres below the surface under police guard until the morning, Supt Gorman said.
He said police air crash investigators would on Monday comb over the plane for clues about what caused the crash.
The ages and identities of those aboard the plane are unknown.
The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter found an oil slick and several items of debris on the surface of Cowan Creek, spokesman Stephen Leahy told AAP.
“There appeared to be a silhouette or outline of a small aircraft but it appeared to be submerged in deep water,” he said.
The ATSB said the single-engine DHC-2 Beaver Seaplane “sunk rapidly” after hitting the water.
“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.”