The chief executive of the world’s biggest catering company has died in a plane crash near Sydney, Australia, according to police. The New York Times reports that Compass Group’s Richard Cousins was among six people killed when the aircraft went down near Jerusalem Bay, just north of Sydney, around 3:10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Other fatalities include Cousins’ two sons, his fiancée, her daughter, and the plane’s pilot.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened by this terrible news. The thoughts of everyone at Compass are with Richard’s family and friends, and we extend our deepest sympathies to them,” Compass Group chairman Paul Walsh said in a statement. “It has been a great privilege to know Richard personally and to work with him for the last few years. Richard was known and respected for his great humanity and a no-nonsense style that transformed Compass into one of Britain’s leading companies.”
Cousins spent 11 years with Compass Group, which employs over 550,000 people and provides food service to clients including Costco, Einstein Bros Bagels, Chick-fil-A, and Quiznos. The 58-year-old, who was set for retirement in March 2018, will be replaced by Dominic Blakemore, the company’s deputy group chief executive.
The cause of the December 31 crash is still being investigated. Police are working with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) to uncover the plane, which is currently submerged in 13 meters of water, according to Reuters. ATSB Executive Director Nat Nagy told The New York Times that officials will take a look at the plane’s avionics and maintenance record in addition to the pilot’s background and experience and any electronic devices — iPads or iPhones — that may have been on board. A preliminary report is expected within 30 days.
Sydney Seaplanes, who owned and operated the aircraft under investigation, has released a statement: “All at Sydney Seaplanes are deeply shocked by this incident and the resulting loss of life. We wish to pass on our heartfelt condolences to the Bowden and Cousins families and the family of our pilot Gareth Morgan who were tragically killed.”
Managing director Aaron Shaw says the late pilot was extremely experienced with over 9,000 hours of seaplane time. The company, which has been operating since 2005, has suspended all operations until further notice.
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