01/04/2018 16:03 EST | Updated 01/06/2018 15:23 EST

Canadian pilot killed in Australia remembered as beloved brother, son

SYDNEY, Australia — The family of a Canadian seaplane pilot who died in a crash north of Sydney, Australia, this week say they're devastated by the loss.

Gareth Morgan's family has issued a statement saying the 44-year-old was a "wonderful and caring son and brother who never ceased to make us proud."

Morgan and his five British passengers died on New Year's Eve when the seaplane he was flying crashed into a river in New South Wales.

Morgan was a former North Vancouver resident who has been described as an extremely experienced and deeply respected pilot.

His family says they're thankful for everyone who has helped in the wake of the tragedy, including first responders, civilians who tried to assist following the crash and Morgan's Australian friends and colleagues, who have helped them in recent days.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation and a crane lifted most of the aircraft from the riverbed on Thursday so the wreckage can be examined for clues.

The Australian Safety Board said Thursday that the plane, manufactured in 1963 and owned by tourism business Sydney Seaplanes, had been in another fatal crash in 1996.

The agency's executive director said the accident investigation team would examine the circumstances of the 1996 crash.