Brave bystanders attempt to rescue victims from seaplane crash

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hawkesbury river seaplane
The DHC-2 Beaver is one of the most popular bushplanes in the world. Photo by KMJ via Wikimedia commons.

A group of bystanders led by heroic Kurt Bratby recently detailed how they risked their lives in a desperate attempt to rescue trapped passengers of a seaplane that crashed over New Year’s Eve.

Bratby alongside 3 of his mates went underwater, attempting to save the passengers, having to swim through debris and fuel to get to them.

The seaplane crashed into the Hawkesbury River and resulted in the deaths of 6 people, one of which was a well-known British business executive.

Richard Cousins was the chief executive of the successful catering company Compass. Both his sons, his fiancée and her daughter aged 11 were killed in the accident.

Gareth Morgan, the plane’s pilot was also found dead. Investigators are hoping to be able to recover the DHC-2 Beaver seaplane from the river this week.

The ATSB (Australian Transport Safety Bureau) said that the pending investigation would look into the plane’s maintenance record. It would also look at the plane’s components and any recordings taken during the flight.

The ATSB said that the investigation could include looking “avionics or instruments” included in the plane itself as well as looking at devices like GoPros or phones to determine if there was any recordings of the events leading up to the crash.

The plane was a sightseeing craft which was heading to Sydney Harbour’s Rose Bay before making a sudden turn, then falling down from the sky into the river. The area of the river the crash took place in was around Cowan which is north of Sydney.

The bystanders who were enjoying New Year’s Eve on their houseboat detailed to the media how they dived into the river in a rescue attempt. The river was slowly being filled with aviation fuel and was extremely dangerous for them to navigate.

Despite repeated attempts by the group of friends they were unable to open the plane’s doors before it completely sank. In a last ditch attempt they tied the tail of the plan to their dinghy but were still not able to move it.

Unable to recover the plane themselves or open it to recover victims, the men tied the end of the plane to a buoy to mark it for rescuers. They stated that it was heart wrenching knowing their efforts were fruitless and that hope of any survivors was becoming slimmer every second.

The passengers, all of whom were British had recently watched the 4th Ashes Test with Australia in Melbourne and were going to watch the last test in Sydney. British cricket fans currently in Australia have since paid their respects to the victims.