Marines Aircraft That Went Down in Australia Has Crash History

8 US troops remain in Aussie hospital after weekend accident that killed 3 of their colleagues
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 28, 2023 8:47 AM CDT
After Fatal Crash, 8 US Marines Remain in Aussie Hospital
Australia's Northern Territory Police Commissioner Michael Murphy speaks at a press conference in Darwin, Australia, on Monday.   (Australian Broadcasting Corp. via AP)

Eight US Marines remained in a hospital in the Australian north coast city of Darwin on Monday after they were injured in a fiery crash of a tilt-rotor aircraft that killed three of their colleagues on an island. All 20 survivors were flown from Melville Island, 50 miles south, to Darwin within hours of the Marine V-22 Osprey crashing at 9:30am local time Sunday during a multinational training exercise, Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said, per the AP. All were taken to the Royal Darwin Hospital, and 12 had been discharged by Monday, she said. The first five Marines to arrive at the city's main hospital were critically injured and one underwent emergency surgery. Fyles said she wouldn't detail the conditions of the eight who remained 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 Osprey that crashed was one of two that flew from Darwin to Melville on Sunday as part of the Exercise Predators Run mission, which involves the militaries of the United States, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and East Timor. All 23 Marines aboard the lost aircraft were temporarily based in Darwin as part of the Marine Corps' annual troop rotation. Around 150 US Marines are currently based in Darwin, and up to 2,500 rotate through the city every year. They are part of a realignment of US forces in the Asia-Pacific region that's broadly meant to face an increasingly assertive China.

The bodies of the three Marines remained at the crash site, where an exclusion zone would be maintained, Northern Territory Police Commissioner Michael Murphy said. The cause of the crash had yet to be explained, and investigators will remain at the site for at least 10 days, Murphy said. The Osprey, a hybrid aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter but during flight can tilt its propellers forward and cruise much faster like an airplane, crashed into a tropical forest and burst into flames. Before Sunday, there had been five fatal crashes of Marine Ospreys since 2012, causing a total of 16 deaths. The latest was in June 2022, when five Marines died in a fiery crash in a remote part of California east of San Diego. A crash investigation report last month found that the tragedy was caused by a mechanical failure related to a clutch.

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There had been 16 similar clutch problems with the Marine Ospreys in flight since 2012, the report found. But no problems have arisen since February, when the Marine Corps began replacing a piece of equipment on the aircraft, the report said. Emergency responders were surprised the death toll from Sunday's 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. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin paid tribute to the dead Marines."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 US Embassy in Australia issued a statement offering condolences to the families and friends of the dead Marines.

(More Marines stories.)

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