By Stacey Leasca
October 16, 2018
Australia, Seaplane
Credit: Getty Images

A seaplane crash in Australia killed five British tourists and their pilot on New Year's Eve in 2017. Though the reason for the crash remains officially unknown, Jerry Schwartz, the new part-owner of Sydney Seaplanes, is offering up one plausible theory.

Schwartz believes the pilot may have become incapacitated when a passenger knocked him out while attempting to take a selfie.

“The investigation has shown that safety is good and it’s actually believed to not be pilot error,” Schwartz told The Australian. “The current belief is the passenger at the front actually knocked out the pilot.” As he further noted, the passenger was likely in the front seat, swung around quickly to take a photo, and possibly elbowed the pilot in the temple, either knocking him out or disorientating him.

According to reports, the plane, a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver floatplane, flew off course and nosedived straight into the Hawkesbury River, located north of Sydney, at 3 p.m. local time on Dec. 31, despite flying in perfect conditions.

“Something definitely happened to the pilot to incapacitate him,” Sydney Seaplanes managing director Aaron Shaw told The ­Australian.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau initially found that there were no obvious mechanical defects or fuel contamination on the aircraft, the Telegraph reported. The aircraft, it noted, was also up to date with its maintenance checks. The pilot, Canadian-born Gareth Morgan, had plenty of experience and a good record.

Along with Morgan, reported, the crash claimed the lives of Richard Cousins, 58, his fiancée Emma Bowden, 48, her 11-year-old daughter Heather, and her cousins’s sons William, 25, and Edward, 23. The family had been taking part in the airline’s “fly-dine” sightseeing trip, which was en route to Rose Bay in Sydney Harbour when the plane made the devastating sharp turn. A final report on the crash is due to the ATSB by next year.