NORFOLK — The MV-22 Osprey aircraft that crashed over the weekend off the coast of Australia, killing three Marines, struck the flight deck of a ship before falling into the water, according to Navy documents.
The Osprey was making its final approach Saturday toward the amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay off Australia’s east coast in Shoalwater Bay at the time, Navy records show.
The Marines have said the Osprey launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard and that ship’s smaller boats and aircraft immediately responded in the search-and-rescue efforts where 23 survivors were picked up.
Amphibious transport docks have significantly smaller flight decks than amphibious assault ships and can only support aircraft that can take off and land vertically, such as the Osprey.
Preliminary details about the daytime crash were reported to the Norfolk-based Naval Safety Center. An investigation into what caused the crash is underway.
The USS Green Bay is the amphibious transport dock assigned to the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group. Navy photographs show the ship participating in search-and-rescue efforts in the Coral Sea following the crash. The Navy says amphibious transport docks are considered “secondary aviation platforms for amphibious ready groups.”
The Osprey was assigned to a Marine squadron based in Japan, and the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group also is home-ported there. The aircraft and ships were on a regularly scheduled deployment and had recently visited a port in Australia following an exercise with the Australian navy.
The Marines on Monday identified the three men who died in the crash: pilot 1st Lt. Benjamin Cross, 26, of Oxford, Maine; crew chief Cpl. Nathaniel F. Ordway, 21, of Sedgwick, Kansas; and Pfc. Ruben P. Velasco, 19, of Los Angeles, a field artillery fire control Marine.
“The loss of every Marine is felt across our entire Marine Corps family. The families of the brave Marines we lost – there is no way for us to understand what you are going through,” Col. Tye R. Wallace, commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, said in a statement.
“What we do know is that your Marines left a lasting impression on the 31st MEU, the Marine Corps, and the world. They will live on forever in our thoughts and our hearts.”
The Osprey’s wreckage was found by the Royal Australian Navy, and a salvage operation that could take months is underway .
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