It was a meant to be a New Year’s Eve to remember: a lunch at the Cottage Point Inn in Sydney’s north, before a joy flight back to Rose Bay.
However the five passengers – four British citizens and an 11-year-old child – would not survive to ring in the New Year.
The Sydney Seaplanes aircraft crashed into the river at Jerusalem Bay about 3pm, and all six people on board including the pilot died.
Myles Baptiste told Nine News he watched in horror as the plane hit the water and quickly sank on Sunday.
“We saw a seaplane coming towards us,” he said.
“It made a tight right-hand turn and as it actually turned around, the wings dipped and it nosedived straight into the water.”
RELATED:Six people dead after Sydney Seaplane crashes into Hawkesbury River
The bodies were recovered before nightfall. Photo: Jessica Hromas
By 7.30pm, NSW police had recovered all six bodies but the DHC-2 Beaver Seaplane remained in 13 metres of water overnight under police guard.
The flight from Sydney to the Cottage Point Inn is just 20 minutes, and the Sydney Seaplanes package offers return flights from Rose Bay and a three-course a la carte lunch for $535 per person.
The flight takes in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and the Hawkesbury River, as well as views of Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.
In a statement, Sydney Seaplanes said it was shocked by the incident and had suspended all operations until further notice.
Emergency services were called after the seaplane crashed about 3pm in Jerusalem Bay. Photo: Jessica Hromas
“We wish to pass on our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the passengers and pilot who were tragically killed,” the company said.
“We do not yet know the cause of the accident. We are dedicating our full resources in assisting the NSW Police, the n Transport Safety Board, Civil Aviation Safety Authority and other relevant authorities to understand the cause of the accident.”
The company, which has been operating since 2005, said it has taken thousands of flights and has had an “unblemished” safety record until now.
“The safety of our passengers and staff is our absolute primary and highest priority. Our aircraft are professionally maintained to manufacturer’s specifications and our seaplane pilots are some of the most experienced in the world.”
On Sunday, Acting Superintendent Michael Gorman said police would work with Sydney Seaplanes to identify the victims and notify next of kin.
Inspector Michael Gorman speaking to media after the seaplane crash. Photo: Jessica Hromas
The British Foreign Office confirmed British citizens had been on board, the Telegraph UK reports.
The cause of the crash was unclear, and it could take investigators from the n Transport Safety Bureau up to a year to complete a final report on the incident.
A team of ATSB investigators would begin their investigation once police handed over the scene, and the ATSB said it would aim to release a preliminary report at the end of the month.
Police divers would work to refloat the seaplane on Monday.
Acting Superintendent Gorman said anyone who witnessed the crash could help with their investigation.
“[There] certainly were people out on boats and on the water which is why if people have seen what occurred please contact Marine Area Command or Crime Stoppers,” he said.
– With William McInnes