Canadian pilot 'upbeat' before fatal crash of seaplane in Australia: report
Canadian pilot Gareth Morgan is seen here. (Source: Facebook, Gareth Morgan - Man After God's Heart)
SYDNEY - Investigators in Australia have used photographs taken by a passenger and a witness on the ground to help piece together the last moments before a seaplane crashed on New Year's Eve, killing the Canadian pilot and his five British passengers.
In an interim factual report, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau also says New South Wales police have conducted a re-enactment flight to establish the plane's location using the passenger's photographs.
Pilot Gareth Morgan, a former resident of North Vancouver, was flying the de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver owned by Sydney Seaplanes when it crashed into the Hawkesbury River near Sydney.
The bureau says its ongoing investigation will now focus on the plane's flight path and how it compared to the standard departure typically taken by other pilots, the pilot's health and medical history, the aircraft's performance and handling characteristics, and similar accidents in Australia and internationally.
The interim report does not include any analysis or findings by the bureau.
A preliminary report released earlier this year ruled out a bird strike, contaminated fuel and the plane breaking up in flight as possibilities for the cause of the crash.
The plane crashed shortly after takeoff as it was climbing for a flight south to Sydney following a restaurant lunch.
The report cites eyewitnesses saying the plane suddenly entered a steep right turn before the nose dropped. The plane hit the water in a near-vertical dive, the bureau has said in a previously released report.
The plane was built in 1963 and had an earlier fatal crash in 1996 while it was being used as a crop duster in rural Australia.
The interim report released Wednesday says the aircraft was rebuilt in 1999 and converted to a floatplane, then was acquired by Sydney Seaplanes in 2006.
“There was nothing to indicate the rebuild 18 years before had any connection with this accident,” the report says.
Morgan, who was 44, has been described as an extremely experienced and deeply respected pilot.
The report says the owner of the aircraft estimated Morgan had flown at least 780 flights to and from Cottage Point, where it was taking off from when the accident happened.
It says the pilot's personal routine in the three days before the accident are unknown, but a friend told the bureau that Morgan's daily routine was “regimented and consistent,” and that he exercised regularly and was a healthy eater.
“Work colleagues and persons at Cottage Point who conversed with the pilot prior to this flight and throughout the day reported that he appeared normal, upbeat and happy,” it says.
Also killed in the crash were Richard Cousins, 58, his fiancee Emma Bowden, 48, her 11-year-old daughter Heather Bowden-Page and his two sons William, 25, and Edward, 23.
The aircraft was not fitted with a cockpit voice or flight data recorder and Australian regulations did not require the plane to have the devices, but the bureau says it will consider whether they should be installed on planes of its size.