The US Navy and Marine Corps suspended their search and rescue efforts on Sunday for three U.S. Marines missing after their aircraft crashed into the sea off Australia’s northeast coast a day earlier, the U.S. Marine Corps said. The Marine Corps said they had shifted to recovery efforts in coordination with the Australian Defence Force, which could last several months, and had notified the next-of-kin of the three missing Marines. Twenty-three other personnel aboard the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft had been rescued, the III Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Okinawa, Japan, said in an earlier statement. Australian emergency officials said one person had been taken to hospital in Rockhamption in northeastern Queensland state but gave no other details. Ospreys have been involved in incidents resulting in deaths or injuries in recent years. The latest incident took place off the coast of Shoalwater Bay in Queensland. Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology described wind, swell and atmospheric conditions at the time of the incident as “benign”. The U.S. Marines Corps has already said the incident was under investigation.
The aircraft that crashed had launched from the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) amphibious assault ship and was on regular operations when it hit the water, according to the Marines Corps, and boats and aircraft on the ship immediately began search-and-rescue efforts. U.S. President Donald Trump, who was on his first full day of vacation at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, was briefed on the crash by his chief of staff, retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, a White House official said. The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group was in Australia to participate in joint training manoeuvres involving more than 33,000 U.S. and Australian military personnel, which ended two weeks ago. The exercises included the participation of MV-22 Ospreys practising the deployment of U.S. Marine reconnaissance teams.
The Osprey, built by Boeing Co and Textron Inc’s Bell Helicopter unit, is designed to take off like a helicopter and rotate its propellers to fly like a plane. 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 U.S. 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.