Dive teams are preparing to recover the submerged wreckage a US military aircraft that went down in waters off the central Queensland coast, leaving three Marines presumed dead.
The tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey plunged into the sea at Shoalwater Bay, near Rockhampton, during a scheduled military exercise on Saturday. Late on Monday, Defence Minister Marise Payne said the HMAS Melville had located the aircraft.
The Royal Australian Navy dive clearance team finalised recovery plans with the US Marine Corps and US Navy, a spokesperson for the USMC said on Monday night.
The commanding general of the III Marine Expeditionary Force, Lieutenant General Lawrence Nicholson, thanked the Australian Defence Force for their help in the recovery efforts.
“They volunteered their help before we could even ask, demonstrating their friendship and value as international partners,” Lt Gen Nicholson said.
“The crew of the Melville and its assets have been invaluable in the recovery effort. On behalf of the Marines, sailors, and families of III MEF, I thank you for your support.”
The Osprey took off from the USS Bonhomme Richard on Saturday afternoon before it reportedly smashed into the deck of the transport ship USS Green Bay while trying to land. There were 26 people aboard the aircraft, but only 23 were rescued.
Osprey crew chief Corporal Nathan Ordway and Lieutenant Benjamin Robert Cross have been identified as two of the three missing Marines.
Corp Ordway’s sister Taylor asked people to pray for her brother and the two other crew members in a post on the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Facebook page.
Ryan Cross confirmed his younger brother was one of the people unaccounted for during an interview with CBS Radio in the US.
Cross said his brother always knew he wanted to be a pilot in the military.
“It had been his dream,” he told CBS on Sunday.
Cross said his brother was devoted to his family and the Marine Corps, but would also do anything for anybody who needed help.
“He’s the type of friend everybody wishes they had and the type of person everybody wishes they knew,” he said.
Payne said earlier that recovery efforts would be difficult and it was feared the mission could drag on for months. The latest incident is the 10th known crash involving an Osprey – an aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter but flies like an aeroplane – since 1991.
The Japan Times reported on Monday the country’s defence minister had asked the US to stop flying the MV-22 in its air space, because of concerns over safety.