A pilot, crew chief and the executive officer of a Hawaii-based Marine air squadron were identified Monday, Aug. 28, as those who died in a fiery MV-22 Osprey crash on a remote tropical island in Australia’s Northern Territory.
Captain Eleanor V. LeBeau, 29, a pilot, from Belleville, IL.; Maj. Tobin J. Lewis, 37, the unit’s executive officer and also a pilot, from Jefferson, CO; and Cpl. Spencer R. Collart, 21, the aircraft’s crew chief, from Arlington, VA, were all part of the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363 based at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
There were 23 Marines aboard the MV-22 Osprey that crashed on Sunday, Aug. 27, during a multi-national training exercise involving the United States, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor.
The tilt-rotor aircraft – it can lift like a helicopter and fly like a plane – crashed in a tropical jungle and burst into flames, officials said. The exercise, which began on Aug. 21 and ends on Sept. 8, is known as Predator’s Run and simulates a remote island invasion using air, ground and Naval forces.
All of the injured were flown from Melville Island about 50 miles to the Royal Darwin Hospital in Darwin, officials said. Three Marines from Camp Pendleton’s 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment remain in the hospital, one in critical condition and two in stable condition, according to officials. Seventeen other Marines were taken to the hospital but were treated and released with minor injuries, said 1st Lt. Romero Lamar.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of three respected and beloved members of the MRF-D family,” Col Brendan Sullivan, commanding officer of Marine Rotational Force -Darwin and regimental commander of 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division from Camp Pendleton, said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and with all involved.”
Sullivan said the Marines will continue to support the “ongoing recovery and investigative efforts” as the investigation into what happened continues.
LeBeau was commissioned into the Marines on Aug. 11, 2018, and was promoted to captain in March. She served in Pensacola, FL, Corpus Christi, TX, and Jacksonville, NC,before arriving at Marine Corps Base in Hawaii. She is decorated with the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Sea ServiceDeployment Ribbon.
Lewis was commissioned on Aug. 22, 2008, and was promoted to the rank of major in 2018. He has served in Pensacola, FL, Corpus Christi, TX, Jacksonville, NC, and Okinawa, Japan, before being sent to Hawaii. Lewis, also an Osprey pilot, is decorated with two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and four Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.
Collart enlisted on Oct. 26, 2020, and was promoted to the rank of corporal in February. He served in Pensacola, FL, and Jacksonville, NC, before arriving at the base in Hawaii. His decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
The Osprey aircraft has had its share of troubles and, since 2012, there have been five fatal crashes in which 16 people died. Most recently was in June 2022, when five Marines went down in a fiery crash in a remote desert region near the Arizona border. An investigation into the cause determined a hard clutch caused a mechanical failure – there were no pilot or maintenance errors found, officials said.
The Marines and Navy grounded all their aircraft for inspections and replacement in February and since then, there have been no reported issues, officials said in June.
Units from Camp Pendleton’s 1st Marine Expeditionary Group have been training across the Pacific Region for weeks now. It is the base’s largest warfighting command and, in recent years, has focused on the region because of increasing tensions with China and interest in the Indo-Pacific region.
About 6,000 Marines and sailors have been training and working with community groups and leaders in countries including Australia, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and the Republic of Palau. The exercises involve training on live-fire ranges, non-combatant evacuations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training.
Annual Marine Corps training in Australia began in 2012; each year, about 2,000 Marines and sailors deploy to Australia’s Northern Territory for six months.
Marines from the 1/3 deployed to Australia in March and will return to Camp Pendleton in October.
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