UPDATED: Three US Marines have died after their MV-22B Osprey crashed while exercising in the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area, north of Rockhampton, Queensland on Saturday.
The Osprey, from the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (VMM-265) ‘Dragons’ based in Japan and assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, crashed after launching from the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard at around 4pm.
In a statement, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Force said the Osprey, with 26 personnel aboard, was conducting “regularly scheduled operations” when the tiltrotor entered the water.
“The ship’s small boats and aircraft immediately responded in the search and rescue efforts,” read the statement.
“Twenty-three of 26 personnel aboard have been rescued. The circumstances of the mishap are currently under investigation. There is no additional information available at this time.”
Then around midday on Sunday, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Force provided an update on the accident confirming three of the Osprey’s crew were fatally injured in the accident.
“Operations have now shifted to recovery efforts,” the 31st Marine Expeditionary Force said.
“The next-of-kin for the three missing Marines have been notified. As the sea state permits, recovery efforts will be conducted to further search, assess and survey the area, in coordination and with assistance from the Australian Defence Force.”
On Saturday evening Defence Minster Senator Marise Payne confirmed that there were no Australian Defence Force personnel on board the Osprey.
“I have briefed Prime Minister Turnbull and spoken with Secretary Mattis this evening to offer Australia’s support in anyway that can be of assistance,” said Senator Payne in a statement.
“Our thoughts are with the crew and families affected.”
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit shared photos on Twitter of an Osprey conducting training from the USS Bonhomme Richard off the coast of Shoalwater Bay a day prior to the accident.
— Expeditionary Strike Group 7 (@EXSTRGRU7) August 4, 2017
MV-22B Ospreys from VMM-265 and the USS Bonhomme Richard had recently participated in Exercise Talisman Saber, which concluded in late July.