Three U.S. Marines killed during a training exercise in the Australian north coast city of Darwin on Monday were identified on Tuesday after an American MV-22B Osprey aircraft carrying the troops crashed and wounded several others.
Captain Eleanor V LeBeau, 29, Corporal Spencer R Collart, 21, and Major Tobin J Lewis, 37, were reportedly killed in the crash after the aircraft caught fire when lying in support of Exercise Predators Run.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of three respected and beloved members of the MRF-D family,” Col Brendan Sullivan, commanding officer of the Marine Rotational Force Darwin, said in a news release. “Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and with all involved.”
The tiltrotor aircraft was carrying 23 U.S. Marines when it crashed at roughly 9:30 a.m. local time on Melville Island, off the Northern Territory of mainland Australia in the Timor Sea. Twenty Marines suffered injuries in the crash, and five in serious condition were flown to a town 50 miles away for treatment.
“At present, we remain focused on required support to the ongoing recovery and investigative efforts,” Sullivan added.
U.S. Marine Corps officials said three Marines remain in Royal Darwin Hospital, one in critical condition and two in stable condition. Military officials said 17 others were taken to Royal Darwin Hospital, treated for minor injuries, and released.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles reportedly said she would not detail the conditions of those in the hospital out of respect for them and their families.
“It’s… a credit to everyone involved that we were able to get 20 patients from an extremely remote location on an island into our tertiary hospital within a matter of hours,” Fyles told reporters.
The deceased Marines had highly decorated careers and received numerous service medals and awards.
Corporal Collart, originally from Arlington, Virginia, enlisted in the Marine Corps in October 2020 and was promoted to Corporal in February 2023. He served in Pensacola, FL, and Jacksonville, NC, before arriving at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, HI. Cpl Collart, an MV-22B crew chief, received the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, according to military officials.
Captain LeBeau, originally from Belleville, Illinois, piloted the aircraft when it crashed. Authorities reportedly commended her for landing the plane, allowing 20 others to survive the wreck. She was commissioned into the Marine Corps in August 2018 and was promoted to Captain in March 2023. She served in Pensacola, FL, Corpus Christi, TX, and Jacksonville, NC, before arriving at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, HI. Capt LeBeau, an MV-22B pilot, received the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, according to military officials.
Major Lewis, originally from Jefferson, Colorado, was commissioned in the Marine Corps in 2008, being promoted to Major in 2018. He has served in Pensacola, FL, Corpus Christi, TX, Jacksonville, NC, and Okinawa, Japan, before arriving at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, HI. Maj Lewis, an MV-22B pilot, received two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and four Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, according to military officials.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin paid tribute to the deceased Marines on social media.
“These Marines served our country with courage and pride, and my thoughts and prayers are with their families today, with the other troops who were injured in the crash, and with the entire USMC family,” Austin tweeted.
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” supported Exercise Predators Run, a multi-nation military exercise comprised of the United States, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and East Timor.
Roughly 2,500 people take part in the military drill, 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.
Northern Territory Police Commissioner Michael Murphy said emergency responders were surprised the death toll from the crash was not higher.
“For a chopper that crashes and catches fire, to have 20 Marines that are surviving, I think that’s an incredible outcome,” Murphy said.
Though 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 the fatal incident, four other Marines were killed in an Osprey crash during a NATO exercise in Norway.
Ben Whitehead contributed to this report.