DARWIN, 28 AUGUST 2023 (THE GUARDIAN) — Three United States marines have been killed and at least five more injured after a defence aircraft crashed over the Tiwi Islands off the Northern Territory coast during a training drill.
The U.S Marine Corp said the MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft was carrying 23 American personnel when it crashed during a routine training exercise about 9.30am local time on Sunday on the remote Melville Island, 80km north of Darwin. It was reportedly on its way to the Tiwi Islands when the crash occurred.
“Three have been confirmed deceased while five others were transported to Royal Darwin hospital in c
The Northern Territory police commissioner Michael Murphy said, “we are doing everything we can to return them safely back to Darwin for treatment”.
It was one of two U.S Ospreys deployed as part of a multinational training programme called “Exercise Predators Run 2023”.
As of Sunday afternoon five people had been transported to Royal Darwin hospital, with one in a critical condition undergoing surgery.
The Northern Territory’s chief minister Natasha Fyles said on Sunday afternoon it was an “evolving situation”.
“I have kept the prime minister and the deputy prime minister updated, and I have also reached out to the United States consul,” she said.
“We have seen visits to the Northern Territory by both the ambassador and the consul and we wanted to make sure they knew every resource in the territory was focused on this tragic event.”
CareFlight and police aircraft were expected to work through the night transporting injured soldiers from the island, while the National Critical Care and Trauma Response team were triaging those evacuated in Darwin.
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said it was a tragic incident.
“The Department of Defence is very much on incident response and on making sure that every support and assistance is given at this point in time,” he said.
“This is a difficult incident, we’re responding fully and our priority is on providing every assistance possible.”
Royal Darwin hospital has entered a code brown – a management measure to respond to an external emergency that will put increased pressure on the facility – as more injured soldiers arrive.
Initial reports suggested the incident involved United States defence personnel and that Australian Defence Force members were not involved, a spokesperson from defence said in a statement.
“At this critical early stage, our focus is on the incident response and ensuring the safety of those involved,” the statement said.
The U.S-made Osprey is an aircraft designed to combine some of the key features of a helicopter – chiefly, vertical or short takeoff and landing capabilities, with the longer range and speed of a turbo-prop plane.
Sunday’s crash came just days after Exercise Predators Run 2023 began in the Top End, a term used for the northernmost part of Australia’s Northern Territory and, indeed, the continent, with soldiers from the Philippines, Indonesia and Timor-Leste.
The multinational exercise involves 2,500 soldiers and is taking place in Darwin and on the Tiwi Islands.
U.S marines stationed in Darwin are taking part in military drills alongside personnel from Australia and the Philippines.