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U.S. Marines killed in 'tragic' air crash during Australia training exercise

The MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft came down “while transporting troops during a routine training exercise,” the Marine Corps said.
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Three U.S. Marines were killed when an aircraft crashed on an island off northern Australia during a multination training exercise, the Marine Corps said in a statement Sunday.

The MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft came down “while transporting troops during a routine training exercise” on Melville Island, north of Darwin, the statement said.

Five others in “serious condition” were transported to the Royal Darwin Hospital about 60 miles to the south of the island, the statement said. “There were a total of 23 personnel on board,” it added.

U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey is seen prior to a military drill at Okadama Airport in Sapporo City, Hokkaido Prefecture, on Sept. 30, 2022.
A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey before a military drill at Okadama Airport in Sapporo City, Japan, on Sept. 30. Taketo Oishi / The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images

A spokesperson confirmed that all of those on board were Marines.

“The Marines aboard the aircraft were flying in support of Exercise Predators Run,” the statement said, adding that “the cause of the incident is under investigation.” 

Hundreds of troops from the U.S., Australia, the Philippines, East Timor and Indonesia are taking part in the 12-day exercise on land, in the sea and in the air, which focuses on Melville, which is part of the Tiwi Islands, and is scheduled to end Sept. 7.

Meville is Indigenous-owned land mostly covered by tropical woodland. Its population is around 1,000 people, most of them Indigenous.

Around 150 U.S. Marines are based in Darwin, and up to 2,500 rotate through the city every year.

Calling it a "tragic incident," Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said at a news conference that the government’s focus was “very much on incident response and on making sure that every support and assistance is given.”

He added that the government and the Defense Department were “also very much focused on providing that practical assistance on the ground.”

At a joint news conference with Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles, the region's police commissioner, Michael Murphy, said helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft were deployed to return the rest of the injured from the remote location.

The Osprey that crashed was one of two that had flown from Darwin to Melville on Sunday, Murphy said.

“We acknowledge that this is a terrible incident,” Fyles added. “The Northern Territory government stands by to offer whatever assistance is required.”

Saying its “deepest condolences go out to the families and friends” of the victims and hoping for “a speedy and full recovery to the injured,” the U.S. Embassy in Australia said in statement that it was “grateful” to the Australian responders.

“Australians and Americans have been the closest of friends for over a hundred years, and we’re thankful for their continued friendship and support at this time,” the statement said.

Military cooperation between the U.S. and Australia has ramped up in recent years. Four Australian soldiers were killed during exercises last month when their helicopter crashed into the ocean off Queensland.