CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A United States Marines Corps aircraft crashed on a north Australian island Sunday, injuring 23 Marines, several critically, officials said.
Five of the injured were flown 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Melville Island to the mainland city of Darwin for hospital treatment, Northern Territory Police Commissioner Michael Murphy said around six hours after the crash.
Helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft had been deployed to return from the remote location with the rest of the injured, he said.
One of the injured was undergoing surgery at the Royal Darwin Hospital, Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said at a joint news conference with Murphy.
Some were critically injured and patients were being triaged on arrival at Darwin’s airport, she said.
“We acknowledge that this is a terrible incident,” Fyles said. “The Northern Territory government stands by to offer whatever assistance is required.”
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said only Americans were injured when the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft crashed during Exercise Predators Run, which involves the militaries of the United States, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor.
“The initial reports suggest that the incident involves just U.S. defense force personnel,” Albanese said.
“Our focus as a government and as the department of defense is very much on incident response and on making sure that every support and assistance is given at this difficult time,” he added.
Melville is part of the Tiwi Islands, which along with Darwin are the focus of the exercise that involves 2,500 troops.
The Osprey that crashed was one of two that had flown from Darwin to Melville on Sunday, Murphy said.
Around 150 U.S. Marines are currently based in Darwin and up to 2,500 rotate through the city every year.
The U.S. military was also taking part in a mulitnation military exercise in July when four Australia personnel were killed in an army MRH-90 Taipan helicopter crash off the northeast Australian coast.