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By Tom Westbrook
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian investigators and police hoisted the wreckage of a seaplane from the Sydney river where it sank after crashing on New Year's Eve, killing six people, including the chief executive of British catering company Compass Group Plc <CPG.L>.
Richard Cousins, 58, his two sons, his fiance and her daughter and the pilot were killed when the plane hit the water shortly after takeoff on Sunday.
The family were on a short tourist flight, operated by Sydney Seaplanes, from a waterfront restaurant on the Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney, to Rose Bay in the city's east.
A preliminary report into the crash was expected in about 30 days, with a final report taking up to 12 months, according to Australian Transport Safety Bureau executive director Nat Nagy.
"We are reasonably confident that we will be able to do a thorough examination of the key components of the aircraft, to understand whether they were operating correctly at the time," Nagy told reporters.
Police divers wrapped slings around the fuselage and a barge fitted with a small crane slowly lifted the wreck, upside down and without wings, from about 13 metres of water near Cowan, 40 km (25 miles) north of Sydney.
The propeller, cockpit and front section of fuselage were crumpled, and the landing floats were raised separately. The pieces were loaded on to the barge deck and covered with a tarpaulin, television pictures showed.
Air crash investigation records, first reported by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper on Thursday and reviewed by Reuters, show a plane with the same serial number crashed 21 years earlier, when it was being used as a crop duster.
The 1996 accident report found that the aircraft, a DHC-2 de Havilland Canada, likely stalled and that conditions were gusty when it crashed, killing the pilot.
"It was repaired after the accident and all appropriate approvals and checks were done. It was then re-registered and went back into service," a spokesman for Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority said in an email.
A spokesman for Sydney Seaplanes said the company had no comment while the investigation into the crash continues.
(Additional reporting by James Regan; Editing by Nick Macfie)