US calls off rescue operation for missing Marines off coast of Australia | News | DW | 05.08.2017
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US calls off rescue operation for missing Marines off coast of Australia

The US military has called off the search for three missing marines after a tilt-rotor plane crashed off Australia. The aircraft went down with 26 service members on board, but most of them have since been rescued.

The US Marine Corps said they have stopped the rescue operations and switched to "recovery efforts." The move signals that the military does not expect to find the marines alive.

"Recovery and salvage operations can take several months to complete," the US military said in a statement on Sunday. "The next-of-kin for the three missing Marines have been notified."

Previously, Okinawa-based Marine base Camp Butler announced one of its MV-22 Osprey aircraft crashed into the water off the east coast of Australia, while conducting "regularly scheduled operations." 

Twenty-six personnel were on board the aircraft when the incident occurred, according to the statement.

"The circumstances of the mishap are currently under investigation," they said.

The Osprey is the primary assault support aircraft for the Marines. It is a tilt-rotor aircraft with two engines positioned on fixed wing tips that allow it to land and take off vertically. It also has the ability to fly much faster than a helicopter.

No Australians on board

The Australian Defence Force was also involved in the recovery effort, according the US. Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said the incident occurred off the coast of Shoalwater Bay in the eastern state of Queensland.

Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne (Imago/J. Qian)

Payne: No Australian personnel on board

"I can confirm no Australian Defense Force personnel were on board the aircraft," Payne said.

"I have briefed Prime Minister (Malcolm) Turnbull and spoken with (US Defense) Secretary (Jim) Mattis this evening to offer Australia's support in any way that can be of assistance."

A spokesman for Queensland Ambulance, Michael Augustus, said one person had been taken to Rockhampton hospital, but he gave no further details of the circumstances and no details of the person's condition.

Series of crashes

The US Osprey aircraft were in Australia for a joint military training exercise with their Australian counterparts in Shoalwater Bay last month. The Talisman Sabre exercise, a biennial event between the two nations, involved more than 30,000 troops and 200 military aircraft.

US troops in Australia (Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Talisman Sabre takes place every two years

The exercise, which ended July 25, included the participation of MV-22 Ospreys, which were practicing the deployment of US Marine Corps reconnaissance teams.

The aircraft has been involved in a series of high-profile crashes in recent years. In April 2000, one crashed in the US, killing 19 people.

bik/tj (AP, Reuters, AFP)