British Columbia

'Deeply respected' pilot, originally from B.C., among 6 dead in Australia crash

Gareth Morgan formerly lived in North Vancouver; British businessman and family also killed

January 01, 2018

Gareth Morgan was killed in a seaplane crash in Australia on Dec. 31. (Dave Schalin)

A former B.C. resident was killed on New Year's Eve when the seaplane he was piloting crashed in Australia, also claiming the lives of a prominent British businessman and his family.

Gareth Morgan, who was originally from North Vancouver and was a dual citizen of Canada and Australia, was one of six people who died Sunday afternoon after a single-engine plane crashed into the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales

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Compass Group CEO Richard Cousins, his two sons, his fiancée and her daughter were also killed in the crash.

Sydney Seaplanes managing director Aaron Shaw described Morgan as an "extremely experienced pilot" with more than 10,000 hours of flight time.

"On a personal level, he was deeply respected and liked by me and all of the team here as a man and as a pilot," Shaw said in a written statement. "He flew my family and I to Palm Beach just before Christmas. We are devastated by his loss."

He added that he has spoken with Morgan's family in Canada to offer his sympathies.

A man of faith

Morgan's friends say he was a devout Christian with a gentle spirit and a passion for flight.

He attended Argyle Secondary School in North Vancouver, where he played soccer and became lifelong friends with Terry Crawford.

"He wasn't quick to speak, but when he did, people really listened to him, because he was just a solid, solid person," Crawford told CBC News.

"His depth of personality came from his faith, his church community and the people he was involved with through his church."

Morgan travelled to Mexico in 2011 as part of a mission with his church. (Dave Schalin)

Morgan travelled to Mexico in 2011 as part of a mission with North Vancouver Alliance Church. His friend Dave Schalin was there with him, and remembers Morgan as an encouraging, positive person who loved people and planes.

"He was just very happy and confident, a great guy to be around," Schalin said.

'A selfless man'

When he lived in North Vancouver, Morgan mentored Sarah Mazza's son as part of the Big Brother program. In an email to CBC News, she described Morgan's death as tragic.

"I'd love people to know he was a selfless man who cared about others immensely," Mazza wrote. "He was just a truly lovely human being who loved life and flying. My prayers and thoughts are with his loved ones."

Morgan traced his career as a pilot in a 2014 video produced by an Australian filmmaker. He spoke of getting hooked on flying in his early 20s, thanks to a family friend in Abbotsford who owned a plane.

He said his first job as a pilot was with an adventure company in the Chilcotin. He later flew out of Vancouver for Harbour Air, friends say.

Morgan joined Sydney Seaplanes in 2011 and stayed there for three years before leaving Australia for a stint  in the Maldives, according to Shaw. He returned to the Sydney company in May 2017.

Austin Jean, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said the federal government is aware of reports that a Canadian citizen had died in Australia.

"Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with those affected by this incident in Australia," Jean wrote in an email. 

He said consular officials in Sydney are prepared to offer support to the family as needed.

Morgan was one of six people who died after a single-engine plane crashed into the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales. (Red Kite Digital)
With files from Briar Stewart and Chris Corday
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