Three US Marines have died after a military aircraft crashed during exercises north of Darwin on Sunday morning.
The aircraft, a US Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, was involved in the Northern Territory’s largest Australian-led exercise, Predator’s Run, at Melville Island when it crashed at 9.43am on Sunday.
A rescue operation has been ongoing all afternoon to find the 23 personnel who were on board the aircraft. That has since turned to a care operation.
CareFlight have transported five separate patients to Royal Darwin Hospital, all are in a serious condition with one receiving critical care. NT Police are also responding.
More affected personnel are expected to arrive at the airport shortly.
No members of the Australian Defence Force were involved in the incident.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles have put out a joint statement expressing their condolences.
“Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with the three US service personnel who lost their lives, those who have been injured, the rest of the crew and indeed the entire United States armed forces,” the statement read
“Australian Defence Force personnel in the Northern Territory are providing support to our US partners.
“Australia will continue to provide assistance to our friends for as long as is required.”
Royal Darwin Hospital, the Northern Territory's largest hospital, has activated an emergency Code Brown alert.
A Code Brown alert is the highest-level emergency response that can be declared in an Australian public hospital.
Speaking to reporters in Darwin, NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles, said a “wide range of injuries” had been reported.
“This is a terrible incident.”
“The Northern Territory Government stands by to offer whatever assistance is required.”
“We want to reiterate that our thoughts are with everyone involved,” she said.
Speaking in Karratha in Western Australia, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed with reporters that an incident had occurred with US defence force personnel and that authorities were providing practical assistance.
“Obviously this is a regrettable incident,” the Prime Minister said.
“We obviously want to make sure that any information that is provided is absolutely accurate, we‘re also very much focused on providing that practical assistance on the ground.
“The Australian Defence Force co-operating with our friends in the United States Defence Force to make sure that we provide every assistance possible.”
“We’re responding fully and our priority is on providing every assistance possible.”
A spokesman for the Department of Defence confirmed the incident which occurred on the remote Melville Island in the Tiwi Islands, about 60km north of Darwin.
“Initial reports suggest the incident involves United States defence personnel and that Australian Defence Force members were not involved,” they said.
“At this critical early stage, our focus is on the incident response and ensuring the safety of those involved.
“More information will be provided when appropriate.”
The crash occurred during a military exercise around the Darwin Harbour and the Tiwi Islands.
The military exercise involves around 2500 soldiers, including approximately 500 US marines, 120 soldiers from the Philippines Armed Forces, 120 from the Indonesian Defence Force and about 50 from the Timor-Leste Defence Force.
It is understood the exercise has been temporarily halted as rescue operations are in progress.
Federal member for Solomon Luke Gosling, who is a veteran himself, posted on Twitter and said “Our thoughts are with all those involved in, and responding to, the aircraft incident on the Tiwi Islands this morning.”
Statements from the US Embassy and US Department of Defense are expected later today.
More to come.