Four Australian airmen are missing after their MRH90 helicopter crashed into the ocean off the coast of Queensland during a joint military exercise with the US. The incident occurred during the Talisman Sabre 2023 drills with the US Marines.
The crash took place at around 10:30 pm local time on Friday, according to Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles. He expressed sadness that the four aircrew members on board have yet to be found. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also issued a joint statement expressing concern for the missing airmen.
In response to the incident, the Australian Defense Ministry mobilized both military and civilian search and rescue aircraft and watercraft to search the waters near Lindeman Island, which is located about 10 miles (15 kilometers) off the coast of Queensland. The search and rescue efforts are ongoing, with hopes of finding the missing airmen.
A rescue helicopter has already spotted wreckage in the vicinity of the suspected crash site, but officials have not confirmed if it is from the missing helicopter. The search efforts have been discussed by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who are currently in Australia for talks with senior military leadership.
Austin emphasized the importance of training to high standards to protect lives during any crisis. He acknowledged the difficulty of accidents during training but highlighted the need for success in order to respond effectively to emergencies.
Brigadier Damian Hill, who is overseeing this year’s Talisman Sabre drills, announced that the exercises would be put on hold due to the incident. The drills were scheduled to take place from July 22 to August 4 and involve 30,000 troops from 13 nations.
This is the second accident involving an MRH90 helicopter this year. In March, another helicopter crashed into the ocean off the coast of New South Wales during a nighttime counterterrorism drill. Fortunately, all 10 crew members survived that incident.
The search and rescue operation for the four missing airmen continues as authorities work tirelessly to locate them. The joint military exercise has been temporarily suspended to prioritize the rescue efforts. The incident serves as a reminder of the risks and dangers that military personnel face during training exercises, underscoring the importance of safety protocols and preparedness in such situations.