Canberra, Australia Eight US Marines remained in hospital in Darwin, on the north Australian coast, on Monday after being injured in an accidenttheir colleagues on the island.
Northern Territory Premier Natasha Files said all 20 survivors were flown from Melville Island 50 miles south to Darwin within hours of a Marine Corps V-22 Osprey crashing at 9:30am on Sunday during a multinational exercise.
She added that they had all been transferred to the Royal Darwin Hospital and 12 had been discharged by Monday.
The first five Marines to arrive at the city’s main hospital were seriously injured and one underwent emergency surgery.
Files said she would not provide details of the conditions of the eight who remained in hospital out of respect for them and their families.
“It is an honor for everyone involved that we were able to get 20 patients from a very remote location on an island to our third hospital in a matter of hours,” Files told reporters.
The crashed Osprey was one of two that flew from Darwin to Melville on Sunday as part of the “Predator Race” exercise involving the armies of the United States, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor.
All 23 Marines aboard the missing aircraft were temporarily stationed in Darwin as part of the annual Marine Corps rotation.
About 150 US Marines are currently stationed in Darwin, and up to 2,500 move through the city each year. It is part of a reorganization of US forces in the Asia-Pacific region that is broadly aimed at countering an increasingly assertive China.
Northern Territory Police Commissioner Michael Murphy said the bodies of the three Marines were still at the crash site, as a no-go area will be maintained.
Murphy said the cause of the accident has not yet been clarified and investigators will remain at the site for at least 10 days.
The Osprey, a hybrid aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter but in flight it can tilt its propellers forward and fly faster, like an airplane, crashes in a tropical forest and catches fire.
Before Sunday, there had been five fatal Marine Osprey crashes since 2012, killing 16 people.
The most recent was in June 2022, whenIn a remote area of California east of San Diego. The accident investigation report last month concluded that the tragedy was caused by a mechanical failure involving the clutch.
The report found that there had been 16 similar clutch problems in Marine Ospreys in flight since 2012. But the report said no problems had arisen since February, when the Marines began replacing a piece of equipment on board.
Emergency responders were surprised that the death toll from Sunday’s accident could not have been higher.
“For a helicopter to crash and catch fire, and 20 Marines to survive, I think that’s an amazing result,” Murphy said.
Defense Secretary Richard Marles also expressed his gratitude that the casualty count could not have been worse.
“It is remarkable that in many ways so many have been spared,” Marlies told Nine News TV. “This remains a very tragic incident, and the loss of those lives is so deeply felt,” Marlies added.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin paid tribute to the killed Marines.
“These Marines served our country with courage and pride, and my thoughts and prayers are with their families today, with the other soldiers who were injured in the accident, and with the entire family of the United States Marine Corps,” Austin said on Twitter.
The US Embassy in Australia issued a statement offering its condolences to the families and friends of the dead Marines and thanking Australian responders for their assistance.