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Remains found in search for lost Taipan

Human remains from the Taipan that crashed into the sea on Friday have been located on the ocean floor, the ADF has confirmed.

Human remains from the Taipan that crashed into the sea on Friday have been located on the ocean floor, the ADF has confirmed.

Searchers have also found parts of the helicopter’s cockpit in water about 40 metres deep, despite poor weather hampering the recovery.

It comes after the helicopter ditched into the water south of Hamilton Island while participating in the Talisman Sabre “war game” involving 30,000 participants.


On Thursday afternoon, Defence Force Chief of Joint Operations, Greg Bilton, said the debris field is consistent with a “catastrophic, high impact”.

The debris field is consistent with a catastrophic, high impact [crash]. Sadly, I can confirm unidentified human remains have also been observed in this location by the remote-operated underwater vehicle.

“While we continue with the recovery as best we can, poor weather conditions have continued to impact our search effort. The weather is expected to remain challenging until mid-next week.

“The conditions have been quite difficult under the water and on the surface, and the Whitsundays is renowned for significant current, so the team are working through those, and as you can see, we are making progress, but it is methodical.”

Bilton said in the next 24 hours, a commercial crew helming ADV Reliant would take over responsibility for the search from HMAS Adelaide.

“ADV Reliant is a vessel that incorporates more modern equipment and helps us to do that sort of recovery operation, but it will still be a difficult operation of 40 metres of depth,” he said.

“It is important to collect as much of the debris as we can so we can fully understand how this incident occurred.”

The grim discovery comes after Defence Minister Richard Marles said on Monday that authorities had lost all hope of finding the four missing crew of the Taipan.

The four men were named as Captain Daniel Lyon, Lieutenant Maxwell Nugent, Warrant Officer Class Two Joseph Laycock, and Corporal Alexander Naggs.

Marles called the crash a “catastrophic incident” and said it was now clear that any hope of finding the men alive had been lost.

He added that defence exercises such as Talisman Sabre are serious and carry risks but are vital.

“These exercises have played a critical part in providing for the collective security and peace of the region in which we live. And so the loss of these four men is a significant and meaningful as the loss of anyone who has worn our nation’s uniform,” he said.

“If it is, as we imagine it to be, they died on Friday night, making a difference.

“The people who [are] most in pain in this moment [are the] families of these four men. They have lost loved ones. People most cherished … To them, we are so deeply sorry and so grateful.

“They have every right to feel an intense sense of pride. Amidst the inadequacy of these words that, I wanted to know they stand in the warm embrace of the entire nation.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the families, and to the friends, to the regiments.”

The incident has raised questions surrounding the use of the Taipan, which has been involved in multiple groundings and is set to exit the ADF next year.

The Taipan fleet was grounded in 2019, 2021, and earlier this year after an aircraft ditched off the NSW South Coast.

Initially purchased for $3.7 billion in 2005–06 to replace ageing Black Hawk and Sea King fleets, the locally-assembled Taipan has proven a headache for Defence, with statistics showing just 46 per cent of MRH-90 aircraft allocated to flying units were available to fly in 2021.

The incident in March saw 10 ADF personnel on a routine counter-terrorism training exercise rescued from the water near Jervis Bay, with two sustaining minor injuries.

Its problems led to Defence deciding to replace the fleet with MH-60R Seahawks and UH-60M Black Hawks.

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