By Mimi Nguyen Ly
Three U.S. Marines have died and 20 others have been injured after their aircraft crashed in northern Australia during routine exercises, the U.S. military said.
According to a release from Marine Rotational Force Darwin, a U.S. Marine task force, the Boeing MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft crashed on Melville Island, north of Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory, around 9:30 a.m. Sunday local time.
The tiltrotor aircraft was transporting 23 Americans during a routine training exercise.
Three people have been confirmed dead.
Five others were in serious condition, and were flown some 80 kilometers (50 miles) to the city of Darwin for hospital treatment.
Exercise Predators Run
“The Marines aboard the aircraft were flying in support of Exercise Predators Run,” the release stated. “Recovery efforts are ongoing. The cause of the incident is under investigation. Further details will be provided as the situation develops.”
Helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft were used to retrieve the remaining injured from the distant site, stated Commissioner Michael Murphy of the Northern Territory Police.
Mr. Murphy noted that the Osprey that crashed was one of two that had flown from Darwin to Melville on Sunday.
One of the injured was undergoing surgery at the Royal Darwin Hospital, Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said around six hours after the crash.
She added that some were critically injured, and were being triaged when they arrived at Darwin’s airport.
“We acknowledge that this is a terrible incident,” Ms. Fyles said. “The Northern Territory government stands by to offer whatever assistance is required.”
About 2,500 troops from the United States, Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and East Timor were taking part in Exercise Predators Run 2023.
Melville is part of the Tiwi Islands.
Darwin presently hosts 150 U.S. Marines, and each year sees a rotation of roughly 2,500 of them through the city.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called the incident “tragic.”
He noted that Australian personnel were not involved in the crash. “The initial reports suggest that the incident involves just U.S. defense force personnel,” the prime minister told a previously scheduled press conference in Western Australia.
“Our focus as a government and as a department of defense is very much on incident response and on making sure that every support and assistance is given at this difficult time,” he added.
In a separate statement, Mr. Albanese and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles expressed condolences.
“Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with the three U.S. service personnel who lost their loved ones, those who have been injured, the rest of the crew, and indeed the entire United States armed forces,” he said.
“Australian and U.S. personnel have stood shoulder to shoulder for more than a century. Our Alliance is built upon these enduring links and our shared values,” the statement reads. “This incident is a reminder of the significance of the service undertaken by our personnel and those of our partner nations. Australia will continue to provide assistance to our friends for as long as is required.”
The United States and Australia have enhanced military collaboration recently, responding to a more aggressive Chinese Communist Party in the Pacific.
In July, four Australians were killed during large multinational military exercises in which the U.S. military also participated. Their helicopter, an army MRH-90 Taipan, had crashed into the ocean off the coast of Queensland.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.