Rescue teams were searching for three US Marines missing after their aircraft crashed into the sea off Australia’s east coast on Saturday, the US Marine Corps said. Twentythree other personnel aboard the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft had been rescued, the III Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Okinawa, Japan, said in a statement.
Ospreys have been involved in a series of incidents in past years. The aircraft had launched from the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), an amphibious assault ship, and was on regular operations when it hit the water, the statement said. Boats and aircraft on the ship immediately launched a search and rescue effort. The US Marine Corps said the incident was under investigation but gave no additional information.
The incident took place off the coast of Shoalwater Bay, in Australia’s northeastern state of Queensland, the Australian defence ministry said. One person had been taken to Rockhampton hospital, a Queensland Ambulance spokesman said. He gave no further details. The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group was in Australia to participate in joint training manoeuvres involving more than 33,000 US and Australian military personnel, which ended two weeks ago.
The exercises included the participation of MV-22 Ospreys practicing the deployment of US Marine reconnaissance teams. The Osprey, built by Boeing Co and Textron Inc’s Bell Helicopter and designed to take off like a helicopter and rotate its propellers to fly like a plane, has suffered a series of incidents in other parts of the world.
Its development was nearly cancelled after the deaths of 23 Marines during flight testing in 2000, but its speed and range have made it very popular in recent years. In December, the US military grounded its Osprey fleet in Japan, after one of the aircraft ditched into the sea, injuring its crew of five when a hose connected to the aircraft broke during a refuelling exercise. Australia has sent troops to fight in the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.