The identity of three US marines tragically killed when an Osprey aircraft crashed off the Tiwi Islands on Sunday has been revealed.
Captain Eleanor V LeBeau, 29, Corporal Spencer R Collart, 21, and Major Tobin J Lewis, 37, were killed when the MV-22B Osprey crashed.
It is believed the advanced military aircraft caught fire before crashing during training exercises in the remote Northern Territory.
In total, 23 US marines were on-board the aircraft, with three still in hospital, including one in a critical condition.
The cause of the crash has not been determined and will be subject to investigation, with surrounding circumstances largely unknown.
Colonel Brendan Sullivan, commanding officer of Marine Rotational Force – Darwin, said the corps was “deeply saddened” by the tragic crash.
“At present, we remain focused on required support to the ongoing recovery and investigative efforts,” he said.
“We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the ADF, Northern Territory Police, Northern Territory government, CareFlight Air and Mobile Services, NT Health, National Critical Care and Trauma Response Center, and Tiwi Island Government, who have come together to assist us in this difficult time.”
In a statement, the US Marines said Captain LeBeau was commissioned in the Marine Corps on August 11, 2018.
The pilot was promoted to the rank of Captain on March 1, 2023 and served in Florida, Texas, and North Carolina.
She later arrived at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, where the trio were stationed before the crash.
Capt LeBeau received the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
Spencer Collart enlisted in the Marine Corps on October 26, 2020, and was promoted to the rank of Corporal on February 1, 2023.
Cpl Collart served in Pensacola, Florida, and Jacksonville, North Carolina, before arriving at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay.
A crew chief, he received the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
Tobin Lewis commissioned in the Marine Corps on August 22, 2008, and was promoted to the rank of Major on October 1, 2018.
He served in Pensacola, Florida, Corpus Christi, Texas, Jacksonville, North Carolina, and Okinawa, Japan, before arriving in Hawaii.
Maj Lewis, an MV-22B pilot, received two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
He also received the Navy Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and four Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.
This year marks the 12th iteration of Marine Rotational Force – Darwin, which began in 2012 and is part of Australia’s U.S. Force Posture Initiatives.
The MRF-D Marine Air-Ground Task Force is comprised of approximately 2000 Marines and Sailors which are deployed to Darwin for a period of six months, from April to October 2023.
While in Darwin, the unit supports a series of exercises and training events with the Australian Defence Force and other Allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.
The mission is to maintain a forward-postured contingency response force, enhance interoperability between forces, and strengthen the Australia-U. S. alliance and security partnership.
The Marines involved in the MV-22B Osprey crash were from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363 (Reinforced) and 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment (Reinforced).
In a statement, Defence Minister Richard Marles said the aircraft crashed on Melville Island while supporting Exercise Predators Run 2023.
“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,” Mr Marles said.
“Australian and US personnel have stood shoulder to shoulder for more than a century. Our Alliance is built upon these enduring links and our shared values.
“This incident is a reminder of the significance of the service undertaken by our personnel and those of our partner nations. Australia will continue to provide assistance to our friends for as long as is required.”
Mr Marles said ADF personnel were providing support to its US counterparts, and confirmed no Australians were injured in the tragic crash, the second is as many months.
Last month, four Australian military personnel were killed during a training exercise under Talisman Sabre when their Taipan helicopter crashed off the Queensland Whitsunday coast.
The Osprey tragedy, like the Queensland crash, marks the latest incident in a long and troubled history for the advanced VTOL – vertical takeoff and landing – aircraft, which is widely used by the US military.
In June 2022, five US marines were killed in southern California when their MV-22B Osprey crashed during a training exercise, the fifth fatal crash involving the aircraft since its deployment in 2007.
An internal investigation by the US military reported in July that the crash was caused by a mechanical failure related to the clutch, with 16 similar issues reported by Marines since 2012.