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10 passengers escape overturned Cessna on Lizard Island

written by Jake Nelson | January 8, 2024

A Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, VH-NWJ, overturned on Lizard Island in the Great Barrier Reef. (Image: RFDS)

A Cessna 208B Grand Caravan has “flipped over” attempting to take off from Lizard Island in the northern Great Barrier Reef on Monday morning.

Ten people, including the pilot, were on board VH-NWJ when it reportedly overshot the runway and crashed into bushland on the remote resort island at around 7:30am on 8 January. All nine adults and one 14-year-old girl escaped the overturned Cessna and were airlifted to Cairns Hospital.

“This included two primary patients, who suffered a limb injury and head injury respectively. Retrieval Services Queensland (RSQ) tasked two rescue helicopters and a RFDS asset to the scene,” said a spokesperson for Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS).

QAS acting assistant commissioner Brina Keating told media that the plane had crashed on take-off, correcting earlier reports that it had overshot the runway on landing. According to Flightradar24, the plane had landed on Lizard Island the previous day and was slated to return to Cairns on Monday.

Keating said the island, which has only one runway and is located around 240km north of Cairns, is difficult to reach, which may hamper investigations into the cause of the accident.


“The only way to access the island is by boat or air. We had those assets to deploy into the area straight away,” she said.

“There were ten patients in total. All were walking, they were able to get out of the aircraft … to walk away from something like that is incredible.”

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