Twenty-three U.S. Marines were injured during military exercises in northern Australia on Sunday, officials said, in a helicopter crash that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called “tragic”.
Five Marines had been transported to Darwin and efforts were underway to take all the injured there, after their Osprey crashed on the remote Tiwi Islands after 9 a.m. (0100 GMT), said Northern Territory Police Commissioner Michael Murphy.
“We are doing everything we can to return them safely to Darwin for treatment,” Murphy told a press conference in the territory’s capital Darwin, adding that Australian Defence Force and the U.S. Marines were involved in the effort.
One marine was being operated on at Royal Darwin hospital and four others were at the hospital, said Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles.
“We have more arriving as we speak… Some people are critically injured,” Fyles told the news conference, adding there was a “wide range” of injuries.
Australian personnel were not involved in the crash that occurred during Exercise Predator’s Run 2023, Albanese said.
“Our focus as a government and as a department of defence is very much on incident response and on making sure that every support and assistance is given at this difficult time,” the prime minister told a previously scheduled press conference in Western Australia.
The U.S. Defense Department was aware of media reports about the crash “but we do not have anything we can provide at this time”, a duty officer said in an emailed statement.
The U.S. and Australia, a key ally in the Pacific, have been stepping up military cooperation in recent years in the face of an increasingly assertive China.
Four Australian soldiers were killed last month during large bilateral exercises when their helicopter crashed into the ocean off the coast of Queensland.