Compass Group, one of the world’s leading food services companies, has confirmed that its group chief executive Richard Cousins and four members of his close family have died following a plane accident in Australia.

The accident took place near Sydney on New Year’s Eve, and Compass Group confirmed the news in a brief statement on its website yesterday.

The Guardian reported that Cousins’ fiancée Emma Bowden, 48, her daughter Heather, 11, and his sons Edward, 23, and Will, 25, also died in the crash. Cousins (pictured) was 58.

Paul Walsh, Compass Group chairman, said: “We are deeply shocked and saddened by this terrible news. The thoughts of everyone at Compass are with Richard’s family and friends, and we extend our deepest sympathies to them.

“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.”

Image: Compass Group