The search-and-rescue effort for three Marines lost when an MV-22 Osprey crashed off the coast of Queensland, Australia, earlier Saturday has turned into a recovery mission, officials with III Marine Expeditionary Force said.
The search was called off at 3 a.m. local time, 11 hours after the Osprey went down following a launch from the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard, officials said in the release. The aircraft was conducting regularly scheduled operations at the time.
Aboard the Osprey were 26 Marines attached to the deployed 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. While 23 of the Marines were recovered following the crash, three remain missing. The aircraft belonged to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 out of Futenma, Japan. The squadron took over as the aviation combat element for the 31st MEU in April.
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The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, took to Twitter earlier today to express his concern for the missing troops.
"Please keep the families of those involved in the Osprey mishap near Australia in your thoughts and prayers," he wrote.
President Donald Trump, currently on a working vacation in New Jersey, was briefed on reports of the mishap this morning by his new chief of staff, retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, according to a White House official.
As operations shift to recovery efforts, the next-of-kin for the three missing troops have been notified, officials said. The Marines have not yet been publicly identified; military policy observes a 24-hour window between the completion of next-of-kin notification and public identification of fallen troops.
During the 11-hour search window, small boats and aircraft from the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group conducted "continuous sustained search efforts," according to the release.
The Marines will coordinate and receive assistance from the Australian Defense Force as they begin recovery efforts, including further searches and assessment and survey of the area as sea state permits, officials said.
The circumstances of the tragic mishap remain under investigation.
This disaster comes less than a month after a Marine Corps KC-130T aircraft crashed during a transport mission in early July, killing all 16 troops aboard in what was the deadliest Marine aviation mishap in more than a decade.