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Three marines killed in US air crash named

Three US marines killed in a military aircraft crash on a Northern Territory island have been named.

Three US marines killed in an aircraft cras (L-R) U.S. Marine Corps Major Tobin J. Lewis, 37, U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Spencer R. Collart, 21 and U.S. Marine Corps Captain Eleanor V. LeBeau, 29. Image: PR Handout Image

The three US marines killed in the crash of a military aircraft on a remote Northern Territory island have been named as emergency crews work to recover their bodies. 

Captain Eleanor LeBeau, 29, Corporal Spencer Collart, 21, and Major Tobin Lewis, 37, died while taking part in a military exercise on Sunday when their Osprey aircraft plunged to the ground on remote Melville Island, 80km north of Darwin.

Twenty US marines who were injured in the crash were transferred to Royal Darwin Hospital on Sunday night.

While most of the injured have since been discharged from hospital, three remain and one is in a critical condition.

Commanding officer of the Darwin Marine Rotational Force (MRF-D), Colonel Brendan Sullivan, thanked Australian agencies for their efforts.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of three respected and beloved members of the MRF-D family," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

"At present, we remain focused on required support to the ongoing recovery and investigative efforts.

"We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Australian Defence Force, Northern Territory Police, Northern Territory government, CareFlight Air and Mobile Services, NT Health, National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre, and Tiwi Island government, who have come together to assist us in this difficult time."

An emergency call came through from air traffic control at the time of the incident, with an American voice calling for help.

"We are just declaring an emergency, we have Dumptruck 11 flight single MV-22 in the vicinity of Melville Island," the voice said.

"Contact 33, search and rescue is requesting … if there is fire?" an Australian voice asked six minutes later. 

"There is a significant fire in the vicinity of the crash site. Looks like it is not spreading, but there is a significant fire," responds the American voice.

A large-scale rescue operation has been underway since the weekend to recover the bodies of the three soldiers and return them to their families in the US.

The crash site was still covered in smoke and emergency responders were wearing breathing masks as they trawled through the rubble on Monday afternoon.

"We're incredibly lucky and incredibly thankful, for a chopper that crashes and then catches fire, to have 20 marines that are surviving, I think that's an incredible outcome," NT Police Commissioner Michael Murphy said on Monday.

Emergency services plan to be at the site for more than a week as they work through what led to the fatal incident.

"This recovery and investigation will be prolonged, enduring and complex," Mr Murphy said.

"We are planning to be at the crash site for at least 10 days."

The Department of Defence said the incident occurred during Exercise Predator's Run 2023 and no Australian members were involved.

The Marine Osprey aircraft has a tumultuous history, with a number of mechanical and operational issues since its introduction in the 1980s.

Since 2012, 19 people have died in six crashes involving the Osprey which is used by the US and Japan.

About 150 US marines are stationed in Darwin for the military drills alongside personnel from Australia, the Philippines, East Timor and Indonesia.

Exercises on the island have been cancelled but mainland exercises have resumed.


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