Sky- tech train­ing turns to tragedy

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - MICHAEL WRAY

A RAAF Boe­ing 707- 368C stalled and crashed into the sea near RAAF Base East Sale, Vic­to­ria. Five crew mem­bers were killed.

A RAAF Mc­Don­nell- Dou­glas F/ A- 18A Hor­net, of 75 Squadron, crashed 100 kilo­me­tres north­east of Weipa. The pi­lot was killed. The wreck­age of the air­craft was found three years later. Force C130J Her­cules air­craft to the Shoal­wa­ter Bay Train­ing Area.

“Aus­tralian Army avi­a­tion as­sets are at short no­tice readi­ness to sup­port any fur­ther re­quire­ments.”

Ms Payne warned the re­cov­ery would be com­plex.

“The in­ci­dent is cur­rently

Two Aus­tralian Army Siko­rsky S- 70A Black Hawk he­li­copters col­lided dur­ing a night train­ing ex­er­cise near Townsville, killing 18 sol­diers.

A US Navy McDon­nel­lDou­glas F/ A- 18C Hor­net crashed on ap­proach to land­ing g south­west of RAAF Tin­dal, , NT. The pi­lot ejected and was in­jured. be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by US au­thor­i­ties and Aus­tralia will as­sist in these in­ves­ti­ga­tions where ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill ex­pressed her sym­pa­thies for the fam­i­lies and col­leagues of the miss­ing Marines, say­ing the city knew mil­i­tary tragedy all too well af­ter 18 sol­diers were killed when two Aus­tralian Army Black Hawk he­li­copters col­lided in 1996.

“Our thoughts are with the US ser­vice­men and their fam­i­lies,” she said. “It is truly a tragedy and one that our com­mu­nity has ex­pe­ri­enced.”

Her­bert MP Cathy O’Toole said she was deeply sad­dened by the ac­ci­dent and that her thoughts were with the af­fected fam­i­lies. “Tragedies of this na­ture bring un­der­stand­ing to us all of the self­less work un­der­taken by de­fence force per­son­nel around the world,” she said. IT’S an im­pres­sive war fight­ing ma­chine that thrills al­lies and threat­ens en­e­mies, promis­ing sup­port for friends and wrath from the air for any­one threat­en­ing the US.

Even among the bil­lions of dol­lars of aerial hard­ware in Rock­hamp­ton for last month’s Op­er­a­tion Tal­is­man Sabre, the US Ma­rine Corps’ MV- 22 Ospreys thun­der­ing over cen­tral Queens­land were stars.

With their rad­i­cal abil­ity to take off ver­ti­cally like he­li­copters be­fore ro­tat­ing their blades to fly like a plane, the Ospreys wowed the mas­sive crowds around the air­port and im­pressed the Aus­tralian troops in the field who mar­velled as the heli- planes fer­ried sol­diers be­tween land and sea.

When the ex­er­cise ended, a small group of marines from the 31st Ex­pe­di­tionary Unit stayed on at Shoal­wa­ter Bay to hone their skills. On Sat­ur­day, that ex­er­cise turned to tragedy at 4.07pm when one of the $ 100 mil­lion Ospreys with 26 Marines on board crashed dur­ing rou­tine train­ing.

The Osprey was shut­tling troops from the Ma­rine unit’s flag­ship ves­sel the USS Bon­homme Richard to the USS Green Bay, an am­phibi­ous trans­port dock, in the ocean be­tween Cape Man­i­fold and Cape Wil­son. The heli- plane was re­port­edly on its fi­nal ap­proach to the USS Green Bay when it smashed into the flight deck be­fore plung­ing into the wa­ters of Shoal­wa­ter Bay.

The crew was thrown into the ocean and forced to evac­u­ate the sink­ing he­li­copter.

Marines on board the ship rapidly launched small boats and air­craft for a res­cue mis­sion. They plucked 23 sol­diers out of the ocean be­fore the search was called off at 3am.

A Ma­rine Sea King he­li­copter took one in­jured US ma­rine to Rock­hamp­ton for treat­ment but the re­main­ing mem­bers were treated on ves­sels at sea.

As day­light broke yes­ter­day, the mis­sion’s fo­cus moved to re­cov­ery. “The next of kin for the three miss­ing Marines have been no­ti­fied,” the Marines said in a state­ment.

It is be­lieved the flight deck of the USS Green Bay was dam­aged and ren­dered in­op­er­a­ble dur­ing the crash, cre­at­ing ex­tra dif­fi­cul­ties for the search and res­cue ef­fort.

A lone plane spot­ter at Rock­hamp­ton Air­port yes­ter­day said there had been in­tense ac­tiv­ity there on Sat­ur­day night when the Sea King he­li­copter had brought the wounded Ma­rine to hos­pi­tal. But he said yes­ter­day was the qui­etest the air­port had been in nearly a month.

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