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At least three US Marines were killed in a plane crash on Australia’s Tiwi Islands north of Darwin, US military officials said on Sunday.
Another five were in “serious condition” and were transported to the Marine Rotational Force’s Royal Darwin Hospital – Darwin said in a statement.
The statement added that 23 Marines were on board an MV-22B Osprey helicopter during routine training exercises when it crashed on the remote island of Melville, 60km off the coast of Darwin.
“The Marines aboard the aircraft were flying in support of the Exercise Predators Run. Recovery efforts are ongoing,” the statement said.
The cause of the crash is being investigated, Marine Rotational Force – Darwin said.
The plane crash happened after 9 a.m. (01:00 GMT), Northern Territory Police Commissioner Michael Murphy said.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called the crash “tragic” and said Australian personnel were not involved.
“Our focus as Government and as a Ministry of Defense is very much on responding to incidents and making sure all support and assistance is provided at this difficult time,” the Prime Minister said during a previously scheduled press conference in Western Australia.
Around 2,500 employees from Australia, the US, the Philippines, Indonesia and East Timor took part in the 2023 Exercise Predators Run.
The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft crashed on Melville Island during the Exercise Predators Run involving the armed forces of the United States, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor, the Australian Defense Ministry said.
“Initial reports indicate that US defense personnel were involved in the incident and that members of the Australian Armed Forces were not involved,” the ministry said in an emailed statement.
Mr Albanese said his government was focused on providing support. Mr Albanese declined to give details of the crash or rescue efforts in his speech at a previously scheduled news conference.
“Our focus as a government and as a Department of Defense is very much on responding to incidents and making sure that every support and assistance is given during this difficult time,” he said.
The US and Australia, a key Pacific ally, have intensified military cooperation in recent years in the face of an increasingly confident China.
Four Australian soldiers were killed during major bilateral exercises last month when their helicopter crashed into the sea off the Queensland coast.