Tributes have been paid to the CEO of global catering concern Compass Group, who was killed in a seaplane crash in Australia on New Year’s Eve.

The FTSE 100 chief executive Richard Cousins, 58, died with his sons, Will and Edward and his fiancee and her daughter, as well as the pilot of the seaplane.

The seaplane came down on the Hawkesbury River, en route from Rose Bay to Sydney.

Compass chairman Paul Walsh led tributes to Cousins, praising his “great humanity”.

Walsh said that he was “deeply shocked and saddened by [the] terrible news” of Cousins’ death.

“The thoughts of everyone at Compass are with Richard’s family and friends, and we extend our deepest sympathies to them,” he added.

“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,” Walsh added.

In early trading on 2 January 2018, shares in Compass were down 0.8%.

The UK, Surrey-based Compass Group is the world’s largest food service company.

The group included event catering brands such as Levy Restaurants, Leith’s, the Jockey Club and Payne and Gunter.

Cousins had announced he would be retiring from the business and intended handing over the reins in March 2018. Dominic Blakemore, who was due to take over as CEO on 1 April, has now been appointed to the role with immediate effect.

Cousins was born in Leeds in 1959 and studied maths at Sheffield university before starting his career at Cadbury Schweppes. He became chief executive of plasterboard group BPB in 2000.