Selfie Leads to Tragedy? Plane Crashes as Pilot 'Knocked out' by Passenger's Photo

Published October 15th, 2018 - 09:00 GMT
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)

A selfie may have caused a Sydney seaplane to crash killing six people, including a British millionaire tycoon, according to the company's new part owner.

Hotelier Jerry Schwartz, who announced his new partnership with Sydney Seaplanes this week, has said he has full confidence in the company's safety record.

Britons Richard Cousins, 58, his fiancée Emma Bowden, 48, her daughter Heather, 11 and Cousins' two sons Edward, 23, and William, 25, were killed in the crash on New Year's Eve, 2017.

Australian pilot Gareth Morgan, 44, who had many years experience flying for Sydney Seaplanes, also died in the incident. 

Mr Schwartz has ruled out pilot error and claims Mr Morgan was knocked out prior to the crash on the Hawkesbury River.  

'The investigation has shown that safety is good and it's actually believed to not be pilot error,' Mr Schwartz told The Australian.

'The current belief is the passenger at the front actually knocked out the pilot.'   

It is now thought that a passenger was taking photographs of the river and accidentally struck the pilot in the head with their elbow.

Previous investigators said that the pilot probably became disoriented or incapacitated, which caused the plane to nose dive into the river.

Multi-millionaire Mr Cousins died from multiple blunt force injuries, while his bride-to-be died from the combined effects of head injuries and drowning.

William died from head and facial injuries. His younger brother Edward's death was consistent with drowning.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is investigating the crash, which occurred on December 31, 2017.  

Sydney Seaplanes managing director Aaron Shaw told The Australian that something would have caused the pilot to become 'incapacitated' but would not comment any further due the ongoing investigation.

A preliminary report by the ATSB said the aircraft, operated by Sydney Seaplanes, left Cottage Point bound for Rose Bay at 3.01pm on January 31.

The report said: 'The operator reported that the aircraft's expected and standard flight path after departing Cottage Point was to climb initially to the north then turn right along Cowan Creek toward the main body of the Hawkesbury River, until sufficient altitude was gained to fly above terrain and return to Rose Bay.

'While the exact take-off path from Cottage Point has yet to be established, the aircraft was observed by witnesses to enter Jerusalem Bay around 0.6 miles off course.

'The aircraft was observed to enter the bay at an altitude below the height of the surrounding terrain.

'Several witnesses also reported hearing the aircraft's engine and stated that the sound was constant and appeared normal.

'Shortly after entering Jerusalem Bay, numerous witnesses reported seeing the aircraft suddenly enter a steep right turn and the aircraft's nose suddenly drop before the aircraft collided with the water in a near vertical position.'

The wreckage was lifted from 15m of water in Jerusalem Bay on January 4, in an operation by police divers and the ATSB.

The seaplane did not have a cockpit voice or flight data recorder, although aircraft of its size are not required to have one fitted, the report said.

There was no evidence of the aircraft hitting a bird or an object prior to takeoff in flight. There was also no evidence that the plane had broken up in flight.

A final report is due early next year.  

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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