Australian authorities say carbon monoxide poisoning was likely behind the mysterious New Year’s Eve 2017 crash of a de Havilland Beaver floatplane that killed its experienced pilot and five members of a prominent British family. The pilot, Gareth Morgan, and at least two passengers had elevated blood CO levels high enough to cause impairment according to the Australian Transportation Safety Board interim report issued Friday. “From this, the ATSB considers the levels of CO detected were likely to have adversely affected the pilot’s ability to control the aircraft during the flight,” the ATSB said. Morgan grew up in B.C. but was a dual Canadian/Australian with more than 10,000 hours on float-equipped Beavers. After getting the toxicology information, investigators re-examined the wreckage and found cracks in the exhaust collector ring of the radial engine and uncapped bolt holes in the firewall.
The investigation is still ongoing but the ATSB issued the interim report because of its findings and to remind operators to carefully inspect the exhaust systems and firewalls of piston aircraft to prevent exhaust leakage to the cabin. It’s also urging operators to install CO detectors that sound an alarm. The aircraft was on a routine flight into a bay near Sydney when it went out of control and crashed into the water. Richard Cousins, CEO of Compass Group in the U.K. and four members of his family were also killed in the crash.