Three US marines are presumed lost at sea after 23 others were rescued when an American MV-22 Osprey aircraft crashed off the Queensland coast during a US-Australian military exercise.
The MV-22 Osprey aircraft was involved in a “mishap” at about 4pm Saturday off Shoalwater Bay near Rockhampton, where the biennial Talisman Sabre joint US and Australian military training exercise is under way, the US Marine Corps said in a media statement.
Twenty-three of the 26 marines on board were rescued within an hour, while the search for the missing crew members continued throughout the night and into Sunday morning.
However there was no expectation the three missing marines would be found alive. The search for them has been called off, AP reported.
“Operations have now shifted to recovery efforts,” a statement from the III Marine Expeditionary Force said. “The next of kin for the three missing marines have been notified.”
The aircraft that crashed had launched from USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault ship, “and was conducting regularly scheduled operations when the aircraft entered the water”, the statement said adding, “the circumstances of the mishap are currently under investigation.”
The Osprey, a tilt-rotor aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter, but flies like an aeroplane has among the worst accident records of any military transport aircraft in the world.
In December, five crew members of an Osprey had to be rescued after their craft made a shallow-water landing off Okinawa after a training mishap during a night training flight in which a rotor blade cut a refuelling hose and left the aircraft in pieces.
In January, three US soldiers were injured in a “hard landing” of an Osprey in Yemen while in April 2000, 19 people were killed when an Osprey crashed in the US.
Critics of the Bell-Boeing manufatured Osprey say that the aircraft has not been sufficiently tested while its supporters claim that it has no comparison in terms of speed and load-carrying ability.