Frantic efforts by houseboaters couldn’t save the lives of six people aboard a seaplane that crashed into a river north of Sydney, Australia over the weekend, including a British family of five and a B.C. pilot.

But even though it seemed dangerous, they had to try, said Will McGovern, who was among a group of four who steered as quickly as they could towards the wreckage.

“Adrenaline kicks in. You don’t think,” said McGovern. “We started flying across the water towards the wreckage.”

But the plane sank quickly, leaving fuel and debris on the surface.

“There was a massive slick across the top. There were fumes everywhere, burning your eyes,” he said.

His friend Kurt Bratby dove into the water.

“We just couldn’t dive deep down enough really to see more,” Bratby said. “The oil was making it hard to see clearly."

Other boats arrived, screaming at the men to get out of the water. In the end, none of the passengers could be saved.

British CEO Richard Cousins, his two sons, his fiancée and her daughter, and pilot Gareth Morgan perished.

The news was hard to take for friends of Morgan, who told CTV News the deceased was a devout man who volunteered for a youth group, volunteered as a Big Brother, and built houses in Mexico.

“Gareth was a gentle, kind man. He loved flying. He always looked heavenward and had his eyes on God,” said Dave Schalin.

Friend Rob Lawrence said Morgan was no daredevil – he was an experienced pilot who flew for Harbour Air in B.C., as well as in the Maldives.

“I really hurt for the people who knew and loved Gareth. It’s going to be hard,” said Rob Lawrence.

Pastor Dave Sattler of the North Vancouver Alliance Church said Morgan volunteered and also gave generously to charities. He was an avid soccer player, having played for the Capilano team and having represented Canada in the Pan American games, Sattler said.

“He could run like the wind and control the tempo of the game. Whenever he played on the church team, we were pumped, it changed everything for us,” Sattler recalled.

“One of the greatest things he did was offer to take the whole church staff, ten or eleven of us, in a plane, fly to chatterbox falls, about two hours away, and spend the day there. That was our most favourite staff day and we talk about it all the time,” he said.

It was “a cakewalk” for Morgan then, Sattler said, which makes it a big question about how a plane he was flying on New Years Eve could crash in good conditions.

“It seems like for a skilled pilot of his track record an innocuous place to crash. I’m wondering if there was anything going on with the plane,” he said.

The airline, Sydney Seaplanes, has offered to fly Morgan’s family from B.C. to Australia.

The Australian Transportation Safety Board plans to raise the plane this week as the investigation into what caused the crash continues.