SYDNEY (Reuters) – Three US Marines died in a plane crash off the coast of northern Australia on Sunday while transporting troops during a routine military exercise, officials said.
Naval Rotational Force-Darwin said in a press release that five more “were taken to the Royal Darwin Hospital in serious condition”.
They were among the 23 Marines on board the MV-22B Osprey when it crashed, the statement said, adding that the cause of the accident is being investigated.
The statement said the accident occurred in the remote Tiwi islands at around 9:30 am (0130 GMT).
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described the incident as “tragic,” saying the Osprey was supporting the “Predators Run 2023” military exercise. He added that there was no Australian employee involved in the incident.
“Our focus as a government and as the Department of Defense is very much on incident response and making sure all support and assistance is provided at this difficult time,” the Prime Minister said at a previously scheduled news conference in Western Australia.
About 2,500 soldiers from Australia, the United States, the Philippines, Indonesia and East Timor are participating in the exercises.
The United States and Australia, a major ally in the Pacific region, have stepped up their military cooperation in recent years in the face of an increasingly aggressive China.
“Australian and American personnel have stood shoulder to shoulder for more than a century,” Albanese and Defense Secretary Richard Marls said in a statement.
“This incident is a reminder of the importance of the service rendered by our personnel and those of our partner nations.”
Last month, four Australian soldiers were killed during a major bilateral exercise when their helicopter crashed into the ocean off the coast of Queensland.
(Reporting by Sam McKeith in Sydney and Shivani Tanna in Bengaluru; Reporting by Mohamed for The Arabic Bulletin) Editing by William Mallard
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