The crash of an Australian army helicopter into water off Hamilton Island in Queensland on Friday night is being treated as a fatality, and search and rescue crews have discovered debris from the aircraft. It is believed that there were four pilots on board.
As the hunt for the missing person continues, the Australian Defense Force has decided to temporarily suspend the usage of their MRH90 helicopters as a safety measure.
As a part of the Talisman Sabre military training exercises that they were participating in with the United States military, the pilots were flying a mission that involved two helicopters.
A statement was made by the director of the Talisman Sabre Exercise, Brigadier Damian Hill, at five o’clock eastern standard time, stating that HMAS Brisbane was assisting with aviation surveillance of the region and that HMAS Adelaide will arrive to assist with the search effort on Saturday night.
“The families of the missing personnel have been notified,” Hill said, “and I would like to reiterate that it is the priority of the defence to look after those families, their teammates, and those who knew them.”
This afternoon, the crew of the aviation accident investigation team will arrive, and they will immediately begin their inquiry into the incident.
On Saturday morning, the training exercise for the military was put on hold so that members could call their families and reassure them that they were okay. Later in the day, certain exercises got back underway, most of which took place in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
According to Hill, “the Australian Defense Force has established an operational pause for all of our MRH90 fleet as a precaution.”
“They come with risk, and while we desperately hope for better news throughout the course of this day, we are reminded about the gravity of the act that comes with wearing the uniform of our nation,”
The head of the Australian armed forces, Angus Campbell, referred to the incident as “a terrible moment.”
Douglas McDonald, who is acting as an assistant commissioner for the Queensland police, has stated that debris from a helicopter has been located by search and rescue personnel.
At this point, he believes it came from a helicopter but is open to other possibilities. “It is far too soon to confirm precisely which component of the helicopter was lost.
They will be taken into consideration as part of the investigation as we move forward to determine what exactly happened up there at this time.
It is still a search and rescue effort, and we have a number of specialized resources in place right now that are working with the Australian Defense Force.
Richard Marles, who serves as the minister of defence, made the announcement earlier in the day with what he described as “a heavy heart” and paid respect to the members of the aircrew.
“The families of the four aircrew members have been notified of this incident, and our hopes and our thoughts are very much with the aircrew members and their families,” he said. “Our hopes are very much with the efforts that the search and rescue crews are making right now as they go about the task that they are doing.
“We are still in the very early stages, and there will be a great deal more information supplied regarding this incident; however, military drills, which are quite important for maintaining the readiness of our armed forces, are taken very seriously.
“I really, deeply appreciate the assistance that has been provided by a variety of civil agencies, the Queensland police, the Australian Maritime Safety Agency, and the public as well as our US allies, all of whom have come together to assist and to continue the search and rescue and to find our people. I really, deeply appreciate the assistance that has been provided by all of these people.”
During the Austin talks that took place in Brisbane on Saturday, Marles expressed gratitude to the United States for their assistance with the search and rescue efforts.
Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State for the United States of America, issued the following statement: “We are thinking of your four service members… We owe them enormous debt of gratitude for the selfless commitment they have shown, the selfless service they have rendered, and for everything else they have done to defend the freedom that we all cherish.
Penny Wong, the minister for Australian foreign affairs, referred to the incident as a “stark reminder of the risk that the men and women who serve us take and the courage that they show every day in the service of their country” when it occurred.
Earlier in the month of July, a tank belonging to the United States Army was involved in an accident that resulted in a fire and sent six people to the hospital.