The seaplane that crashed in Australia killing five Britons was "destroyed" in a separate fatal accident more than 20 years ago.

FTSE 100 boss Richard Cousins, four members of his family and a Canadian pilot died when the plane plunged into a river on New Year's Eve.

But it has emerged that the de Havilland Canada Beaver aircraft was involved in a crash in 1996, killing the pilot, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

The plane, first registered in 1964, was being used as crop duster when the accident happened. Investigators marked the plane as "destroyed", before it was later rebuilt and put back into commercial use.

Nat Nagy, executive director of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, said: "I am aware of a previous incident with this aircraft. There were a number of factors involved in that incident and that will be something we look at."

The crash on Sunday killed Compass catering chief executive Cousins, 58, his 48-year-old fiancée and former arts editor at OK! Magazine Emma Bowden, her 11-year-old daughter Heather, his sons, Edward, 23, and William, 25, and Sydney-based pilot Gareth Morgan, 44.

The London-based family were flying back to Sydney from an exclusive waterfront restaurant in Jerusalem Bay, when the plane plunged into the Hawkesbury river, 30 miles north of New South Wales's capital.

Sydney Seaplanes, the owner of the aircraft, said it would not comment on technical matters while the air accident investigation was ongoing.

But earlier this week Sydney Seaplanes managing director Aaron Shaw said the engines his planes flew with were replaced every 1,100 flying hours, 100 hours sooner than the industry standard. He added the engine in the plane that crashed had only racked up 200 hours.

Police divers recovered the bodies from the water on New Year's Eve, but the wreckage of the plane was lifted from around 40ft of water today (4 January).

Back in 1996, the de Havilland Canada Beaver plane was working as a crop duster. On 15 November it set off from Armidale, in the north of New South Wales, to spread phosphate fertiliser on nearby fields.

But the craft hit gusty winds, clipped a hillside with a wing and cartwheeled, killing the pilot, according to air accident investigators at the time.

They found that wind conditions, air density and the plane's weight were all significant factors in the crash. But investigators could not work out why the pilot had not dumped his full load or used a climbing flap.