Cpl. Spencer R. Collart, 21, of Arlington, Virginia; Capt. Eleanor V. LeBeau, 29, of Belleville, Illinois; and Maj. Tobin J. Lewis, 37, of Jefferson, Colorado, died when their tiltrotor aircraft went down. There were 20 other personnel on board the Osprey, and five were transported to Royal Darwin Hospital in serious condition.
In an update Monday evening, the Marine Corps said that three troops remain in the hospital. One is in critical condition, and the other two are stable. The other Marines were treated for minor injuries and released.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of three respected and beloved members of the MRF-D family," Col. Brendan Sullivan, commanding officer of Marine Rotational Force -- Darwin, said in a released statement. "Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and with all involved."
The crash occurred during Exercise Predators Run, an annual multinational exercise held in the Northern Territory of Australia. A press release from Marine Rotational Force -- Darwin, the parent unit to the exercise, said Sunday that the Osprey went down on Melville Island, north of the territory's capital city of Darwin.
CNN reported that the Australian territory's police commissioner, Michael Murphy, said two Ospreys departed Darwin on Sunday morning toward the Tiwi Islands. Only one crashed.
The troops involved in the crash were part of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363, which is based out of Hawaii, and 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, out of Camp Pendleton, California. The three Marines who died were part of the tiltrotor squadron.
LeBeau was one of the unit's pilots, according to the Marine Corps, and had been in the service since 2018. Lewis was the squadron's executive officer and had 15 years' experience in the Marines. Collart enlisted in the Corps in 2020 and was the Osprey's crew chief at the time of the crash, according to the statement.
"We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Australian Defence Force, 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," the statement said.
The Osprey is the Marine Corps' primary assault support craft, and it is also used by the Air Force and Navy. The Osprey has been in a number of high-profile accidents that have claimed the lives of more than 50 service members since the 1990s.
An investigation remains ongoing, according to the statement, and a clear reason for the crash is not yet known.
While the Osprey's overall incident rate is lower compared to other aircraft, a clutch issue that can shred important parts in the airframe has become a prominent issue. Last year, the Air Force, which has a smaller number of Ospreys compared to the Marine Corps, grounded the aircraft.
The Marine Corps, which relies heavily on the aircraft as its premier troop air delivery system, has continued flying the Osprey. The service said that it has reduced the clutch issue malfunction by "99%," something about which family members of those in one of the latest Osprey accidents are skeptical. Last year, five Marines were killed in a crash due to the clutch malfunctioning.
The clutch issue is not always responsible for deadly Osprey incidents. In March 2022, the Marine Corps reported that a crash that claimed the lives of four Marines in Norway was caused by pilot error.
Regarding the crash in Australia on Sunday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that "these Marines served our country with courage and pride, and my thoughts and prayers are with their families today, with the other troops who were injured in the crash, and with the entire USMC family."
-- Drew F. Lawrence can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @df_lawrence.