Canberra: A mission was underway to recover the bodies of three U.S. Marines who were killed in an aircraft crash off Australia’s north coast.
The U.S. MV-22B Osprey aircraft was carrying 23 personnel when it crashed off the coast of the Northern Territory (NT) during a routine military training exercise on Sunday.
The Marine Rotational Force in Darwin confirmed Sunday night the deaths of three Marines and injuries to the remaining 20, five of whom were transported to the Royal Darwin Hospital for treatment.
Providing an update on the incident on Monday, NT Police Commissioner Michael Murphy told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio that the focus of the emergency services response had changed from rescue to recovery.
He said crews worked through the night to retrieve the bodies from rugged terrain on Melville Island, approximately 60 km north of Darwin.
The Australian Associated Press reported that the crash site had been secured by NT Police and defense personnel with investigations underway into what caused the crash.
A code brown — Australia’s highest level of alert — was declared at the Royal Darwin Hospital on Sunday but has since been stood down.
Australian Minister for Defence Richard Marles told ABC TV on Monday that he had been in contact with the U.S. Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy to express the government’s condolences and offer support.
“We’ve been reminded, ourselves, of the risks involved in defence exercises and the costs that defence personnel pay,” he said.