At least three US Marines were killed in an aircraft crash on the Australian Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin, the US military officials said on Sunday.
Another five were in a “serious condition” and have been transported to the Royal Darwin Hospital, Marine Rotation Force – Darwin said in a statement.
The statement added that 23 Marines were on an MV-22B Osprey helicopter during routine training exercises when it crashed on the remote Melville Island, 60km off the coast from Darwin.
“The Marines aboard the aircraft were flying in support of Exercise Predators Run. Recovery efforts are ongoing,” the statement read.
The cause of the crash was being investigated, Marine Rotation Force - Darwin said.
The aircraft crash occurred after 9am (0100 GMT), the 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 a government and as a department of defence is very much on incident response and on making sure that every support and assistance is given at this difficult time,” the prime minister said during a previously scheduled press conference in Western Australia.
Around 2,500 personnel from Australia, the US, the Philippines, Indonesia and East Timor were taking part in the Exercise Predators Run 2023.
The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft crashed on Melville Island during Exercise Predators Run, which involves the militaries of the United States, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor, the Australian Defense Department said.
“Initial reports suggest the incident involves United States defence personnel and that Australian Defence Force members were not involved,” the ministry said in an emailed statement.
Mr Albanese said his government was focussed on providing support. Mr Albanese, speaking at a previously scheduled press conference, declined to provide details about the crash or rescue efforts.
“Our focus as a government and as a department of defence is very much on incident response and on making sure that every support and assistance is given at this difficult time,” he said.
The US and Australia, a key ally in the Pacific, have been stepping up military cooperation in recent years in the face of an increasingly assertive China.
Four Australian soldiers were killed last month during large bilateral exercises when their helicopter crashed into the ocean off the coast of Queensland.
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