Four Australian pilots are feared to have died after their helicopter crashed into the water off Hamilton Island in Queensland on Friday night, with search and rescue teams discovering aircraft debris.
The pilots were taking part in a two-helicopter mission as part of the Talisman Sabre military training drills with the United States military.
At 5 pm eastern standard time, the Talisman Sabre Exercise director, Brigadier Damian Hill, said HMAS Brisbane was helping with air surveillance of the area and HMAS Adelaide would arrive to help with the search operation on Saturday night.
The families of the missing personnel have been notified and I would like to reiterate that it is the defence’s priority to look after those families, their teammates and those that know them,” Hill said.
The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said: “We are thinking of your four service members … We are so grateful to them for their dedication, for their service, for everything they’ve been doing to stand up for the freedom that we share.”
The Australian foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, said the crash was 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”.
Earlier in July, a US army tank was caught up in a fiery crash near Rockhampton that left six people in hospital.
As the search continues, the Australian Defence Force has announced a temporary pause on the use of MRH90 helicopters as a precaution.
“The aircraft accident investigation team will arrive this afternoon and commence an investigation into the incident.”
The military exercise was paused on Saturday morning so personnel could call their families and let them know they were safe. Some exercises resumed later in the day, mostly in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.