Three Marines were killed when an MV-22 Osprey they were in crashed Sunday morning while training in Australia. Twenty more Marines onboard survived, the Marine Corps said in a statement, with five in serious condition in local hospitals.
Dramatic audio posted on social media by twitter user @thenewarea51 captures the initial distress call to Australian air traffic control just after the incident. An American pilot on a different plane calls on “guard” — a general aviation distress frequency — to report the crash, identifying the Osprey as Dumptruck 12 and himself as Duct Tape 33. The pilot reports that he is “visual with what appears to be 6 survivors” and a “significant fire.”
“We estimate a mass casualty event,” the Duct Tape pilot says.
Another air traffic controller ask an Australian C-130 in the area to fly to the scene as an overhead supervisor so that Duct Tape 33 can land.
The Australian pilot confirms he will do so, responding with what sounds like the phrase “no brainer.”
The crash occurred, the Marines say, at 9:30 a.m. Sunday morning in Australia, which was 7:30 p.m. Saturday on the US east coast. The MV-22 went down on Melville Island, just off the coast of Darwin along the country’s northern coast, in the Northern Territory.
Latest Information on the MV-22B Osprey Incident pic.twitter.com/OCeUJ6KwIe— MRF-D (@MRFDarwin) August 27, 2023
An investigation will begin immediately but details on the cause of the crash are likely days or weeks away.
“We acknowledge that this is a terrible incident,” Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said six hours after the crash. “The Northern Territory government stands by to offer whatever assistance is required.”
The Osprey was participating in a joint training exercise called Predators Run, which local media said involves more than 2,500 troops from the US, Australia, Philippines, Timor-Leste and Indonesia. The exercise is set to conclude Sept. 7. The U.S. Marine Corps has 150 Marines stationed in Darwin.
The Osprey’s safety record has drawn attention in recent weeks after a series of disclosures by the Marine Corps and Bell Boeing, in the investigation into the crash of California-based Osprey, flying as Swift 11 in June 2022. That investigation revealed that Swift 11 crashed due to a long-standing and recurring engine flaw known as a Hard Clutch Engagement, or HCE. The investigation revealed that the US Osprey fleet has suffered at least 15 HCE malfunctions, though the root cause of the engine failure remains a mystery to engineers.
Marine officials have since ordered that key transmission parts on the plane with more than 800 hours of flight time should be replaced. The Air Force briefly grounded its fleet to bring them into compliance with that order though the Marines did not.
Melville islands is just off the coast of the city of Darwin on Australia’s northern coast. Though far from the nation’s large cities like Sydney, Darwin is home to major military training ranges.
It was the second deadly crash involving Marines in less than a week. On Thursday, Marine Maj. Andrew Mettler was killed when his F/A-18D Hornet crashed near Miramar, California.
Update: 8/27/23: This story was updated with additional information from Australia officials.
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