SYDNEY (Reuters) - President Joe Biden on Monday sent his condolences to the families of three U.S. Marines killed in an military aircraft crash on a northern Australian island as rescue and recovery personnel began work to bring the remains home.
An MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft carrying 23 Marines crashed then caught fire on Melville Island, just off the northern coast of Australia, on Sunday morning local time. The Marines were taking part in military exercises.
"Jill and I send our deepest condolences to the families of the Marines who lost their lives in this dead crash," Biden said in a post on social media platform X. "We are praying for those who also suffered injuries."
Eight Marines are in the Royal Darwin Hospital, with one in the intensive care unit. The remainder have returned to the barracks.
About 2,500 personnel from Australia, the U.S., the Philippines, Indonesia and East Timor were taking part in "Exercise Predators Run 2023" when the crash occurred.
Responders, including members of the Australian military and the U.S. Marines, would now focus on recovering the remains of the three Marines at the crash site, according to Northern Territory Police Commissioner Michael Murphy.
"The mission has now changed from one of rescue to recovery," he told a news conference. "The emergency operations centre will now focus on the recovery of the three deceased marines with dignity."
Murphy did not offer an explanation for the crash and said the investigation will be "prolonged, enduring, complex". Investigators are expected to stay at the crash site for at least 10 days.
(Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Michael Perry)