Three U.S. Marines are dead and 20 more are injured after a Marine Corps aircraft crashed Sunday on a north Australian island during a multinational training exercise, officials said.
Three were confirmed dead on Melville Island and five of the 23 on board were left in serious condition and flown about 50 miles to be treated at a mainland hospital in the city of Darwin after the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft crashed around 9:30 a.m. local time, a statement from the Marines said, according to The Associated Press.
"Recovery efforts are ongoing," the Marines also said, adding that the cause of the crash is being investigated.
A U.S. military official told Australian air traffic controllers that a "significant fire" had broken out in the area of the crash site, according to an audio recording of the conversation obtained by Nine News television.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said only Americans were injured in the incident, which occurred during Exercise Predators Run, a multilateral combined arms exercise involving servicemembers from the U.S., 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."