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Two men winched to safety after Cessna ditches off Mooloolaba

written by Jake Nelson | November 10, 2023

Two men escaped from a downed Cessna 421C, VH-VPY, off the coast of Queensland in November 2023. (Image: RACQ LifeFlight)

Two men have been rescued from a Cessna 421C that ditched off the Sunshine Coast on Friday morning.

The plane, registered VH-VPY, was en route to Pago Pago in American Samoa when it lost an engine and was forced to come down in the ocean about 35 nautical miles off the coast of Queensland. A nearby RFDS aircraft was able to provide accurate coordinates to emergency services.

The pilot dumped fuel and radioed for help before the plane hit the water, which also assisted emergency responders in locating the stricken aircraft. An RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter was able to quickly find the men, whose life raft was taking on water, and winch them to safety before the tail of the plane disappeared beneath the surface.


Rescue helicopter pilot Andrew Caton said the LifeFlight mission was able to launch “in a short period of time”, which was crucial in finding the men before the incident led to a much wider and more challenging search effort.

“Our response was so fast that we reached the crash site within minutes of them ditching, before their aircraft had disappeared completely under water. We could still see part of the wreckage. It made them easier to locate and rescue safely,” he said.

“Certainly, training and experience all come into being successfully piece together a complex rescue mission like this one.”

Both men were taken to Sunshine Coast University Hospital with no major injuries reported, an outcome aircrew officer Dan King said was “incredible”.

“It’s not every day that you are tasked to a light plane that has confirmed that it knew it was going to ditch,” Dan said.

“We knew we were going to a plane that had ditched into the ocean, but we had no idea what to expect, fortunately as we approached, we could see the men and the life raft.”

Official investigations are reportedly underway.

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