Three U.S. Marines were killed during a training exercise on a northern Australian island on Sunday after an American MV-22B Osprey aircraft carrying the troops crashed, wounding several others, according to officials.
The tiltrotor aircraft was carrying 23 U.S. Marines when it crashed at roughly 9:30 a.m. local time on Melville Island, which is off the Northern Territory of mainland Australia in the Timor Sea. Twenty Marines were injured in the crash, and five in serious condition were flown to a town 50 miles away for treatment, according to a report from the Associated Press.
“Marine Rotational Force – Darwin can confirm a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey crash on Melville Island, north of Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, while transporting troops during a routine training exercise,” the Marine Rotational Force in Darwin (MRF-D) said in a press release.
At least one of the injured Marines underwent surgery at a hospital in Darwin, according to Natasha Fyles, the chief minister of Australia’s Northern Territory. Recovery efforts were still ongoing, and the cause of the crash was under investigation, according to the MRF-D press release, which was issued early Sunday.
There was a “significant fire in the vicinity of the crash site,” according to an audio recording of an American official’s report to Australian air traffic controllers following the incident, the AP reported.
The Osprey aircraft that crashed was one of two that left the Australian town of Darwin for the Tiwi Islands – where Melville Island is located – roughly 50 miles away. The “routine training exercise” was in support of Exercise Predators Run, a multi-nation military exercise comprised of the United States, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and East Timor.
“The initial reports suggest that the incident involves just U.S. defense force personnel,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said. “Our focus as a government and as the department of defense is very much on incident response and on making sure that every support and assistance is given at this difficult time.”
Roughly 2,500 people take part in Exercise Predators Run, including about 500 from the United States, according to Fox News. The exercise, set to end on September 7 after 12 days, has reportedly been paused following the tragic incident.
Though it’s unclear what caused the incident, this isn’t the first time the Osprey aircraft has been involved in a fatal crash. Since 2012, there have been five fatal crashes involving Marine Osprey aircraft, according to the AP. In June 2022, a mechanical failure related to the aircraft’s clutch caused the deaths of five Marines in California after the Osprey crashed, according to a crash investigation report. Three months before that, four Marines were killed in an Osprey crash during a NATO exercise in Norway.