Search called off for 3 U.S. Marines who went missing after aircraft crashed off Australia

A photo made available by the U.S. Marines shows recovery efforts for three Marines involved in the MV-22 Osprey incident off Australia.
(MC2 Sarah Villegas / EPA)

U.S. military officials called off a search and rescue operation on Sunday for three U.S. Marines who were missing after their Osprey aircraft crashed into the sea off the east coast of Australia while trying to land.

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps suspended the rescue operation and launched a recovery effort instead, the Marine base Camp Butler in Japan said in a statement, essentially confirming the military does not expect to find the missing Marines alive.

The Marines’ next of kin had been notified, and Australia’s defense force was assisting the Americans with the recovery effort, the statement said.

Twenty-three of 26 personnel aboard the aircraft were rescued, the Marine Corps Base Camp Butler in Japan said in a statement.


The MV-22 Osprey involved in the mishap had launched from the U.S. vessel Bonhomme Richard and was conducting regularly scheduled operations when the aircraft crashed into the water, the statement said.

The Osprey is a tilt-rotor aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter, but flies like an airplane. The aircraft have been involved in a series of high-profile crashes in recent years.

The craft was in Australia for a joint military training exercise held by the U.S. and Australia last month in Shoalwater Bay. The Talisman Sabre exercise, a biennial event between the two nations, involved more than 30,000 troops and 200 aircraft.

Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said Saturday’s incident occurred off the coast of Shoalwater Bay in Queensland state.

“I can confirm no Australian Defense Force personnel were on board the aircraft,” Payne said in a statement. “The United States are leading the search and recovery effort.”

Payne said she had spoken with U.S. Defense Secretary James N. Mattis “to offer Australia’s support in any way that can be of assistance.”

The White House said President Trump was briefed on the matter by his chief of staff, John Kelly.

In 2015, a U.S. Osprey crashed during a training exercise in Hawaii, killing two Marines. In December, a U.S. military Osprey crash-landed off Japan’s southern island of Okinawa. Its five crew members were rescued. And in January, three U.S. soldiers were wounded in the “hard landing” of an Osprey in Yemen.


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7:25 p.m.: This article was updated to report the search for the missing Marines had been called off.

1:15 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from the White House.

7:50 a.m.: This article was updated with news of 23 rescued and three missing

This article was originally published at 6:15 a.m.