CANBERRA, Australia – Three Marines were killed and 20 others were injured when a US Marine Corps plane crashed on a northern Australian island on Sunday.
After the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor plane crashed at about 9:30 a.m., three people were confirmed dead on Melville Island and five of the 23 people on board were flown in critical condition 80 kilometers (50 mi) to the main city of Darwin for hospital treatment. I local time, the Navy said in a statement.
“Rescue efforts are continuing,” the statement said, adding that the cause of the crash is under investigation.
Northern Territory Police Commissioner Michael Murphy said helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft had been dispatched to bring back the injured from the remote location.
One of the injured was undergoing surgery at Royal Darwin Hospital, Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Files said six hours after the crash.
Some were seriously injured and were frisked on arrival at Darwin airport, he said.
“We agree that this was a terrible incident,” Files said. “The Northern Territory Government stands by to provide the necessary assistance.”
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said only Americans were injured in the crash during an exercise Predator run involving troops from the United States, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor.
“Initial reports suggest that the incident involved only US security forces personnel,” Albanese said.
“Our focus as a government and as a defense department is very focused on incident response and ensuring that every support and assistance is provided at this difficult time,” he added.
Melville is part of the Tiwi Islands, which, along with Darwin, is the center of an exercise involving 2,500 troops.
The crashed Osprey was one of two that flew from Darwin to Melville on Sunday, Murphy said.
About 150 US Marines are currently stationed in Darwin and up to 2,500 move through the city each year.
In July, the US military was participating in a multinational military exercise when a military MRH-90 Taipan helicopter crashed off the northeast Australian coast, killing four Australian soldiers.