It is understood that the Osprey, from the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (VMM-265) "Dragons" based in Japan and assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, had launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) and was flying to the transport dock ship the USS Green Bay (LPD-20). On approach to the USS Green Bay, the Osprey slammed into the flight deck and then slid into the water. It is not believed weather contributed to the accident.
23 of the 26 people on board were rescued. One of the Marines was flown by a United States Navy Sikorsky MH-60S Seahawk (Knighthawk) helicopter 168397 / RB-02 of the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 (HSC-25) "Island Knights" as "Knightrider 02" to Rockhampton with leg injuries late on Saturday 5 August. He has since been transferred to Brisbane late on Sunday 6 August by the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (RFDS).
|"Knightrider 02" unloads an injured Marine at Rockhampton Airport Saturday night|
Sadly, also on Sunday 6 August, the wreckage of the Osprey was found as US authorities continue the grim search and recovery of the three Marines who are presumed dead.
The Australian Government Minister for Defence has indicated that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) would support the US-led recovery efforts, which could continue for several months. One of the Royal Australian Navy’s survey ships, HMAS Melville, is currently en route to the search area from the ship’s home port of Cairns, while a Navy Clearance Diving team has also deployed to Shoalwater Bay via a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-130J-30 Hercules A97-450 which arrived into Rockhampton Airport from RAAF Base Richmond late on Sunday 6 August as “Trojan 25”.
Australian Army aviation assets are also at short notice readiness to support any further requirements.
The incident is currently being investigated by US authorities and Australia will assist in these investigations where appropriate.
Last month American and Australian forces conducted joint military training exercises off Shoalwater Bay as part of Exercise Talisman Saber 2017 (TS17), but those exercises wrapped up on two weeks ago. The USMC said that USS Bonhomme Richard was in the area as part of "a regularly-scheduled deployment in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region".
A post on the USS Bonhomme Richard's Facebook page on Saturday said the landing helicopter dock had begun "amphibious integration training … exercises out here on the Coral Sea".
Photos taken by Daniel Bishop, Ash Burggraaff and Scott Harris ©