Four U.S. Marines were killed in Norway during a NATO training exercise, Norwegian police said on Saturday.
The Marines had been taking part in a long-planned exercise called Cold Response on Friday when their MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft crashed south of Bodo, in the northern county of Nordland, the Royal Norwegian Air Force said in a statement.
Organized regularly by Norway, the Cold Response exercise is intended to teach troops survival skills in extreme weather conditions in the Arctic. NATO said in a statement that Cold Response 2022 was not linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Marines were reported missing on Friday evening after their Osprey did not land by 6 p.m. local time. The Norwegian police are investigating, but information about the cause of the crash has yet to be released.
“I feared the worst, but hoped for a long time for better news,” the Norwegian chief of defense, Gen. Eirik Kristoffersen, said in a statement on Saturday.
The crew members were assigned to II Marine Expeditionary Force, which in a statement Saturday morning said that they were listed as “duty status whereabouts unknown” — potentially indicating that the Marines had not yet recovered their remains.
The Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Norway began a search-and-rescue operation after the Osprey failed to return Friday evening. Later on, a crash site was spotted from the air, south of Bodo.
Poor weather conditions made it impossible for rescue services to reach the site from the air, but police and rescue crews eventually made their way into the area by foot and snowmobile. The Royal Norwegian Air Force confirmed early Saturday that police officers had arrived at the crash site.
This year’s Cold Response exercises began in March and brought together about 30,000 troops from more than 27 countries across Europe and North America.
Norway’s prime minister, Jonas Gahr Store, posted a message of condolence on Twitter on Saturday morning.
“It is with great sadness we have received the message that four American soldiers died in a plane crash last night,” he wrote, adding, “Our deepest sympathies go to the soldiers’ families, relatives and fellow soldiers in their unit.”
John Ismay contributed reporting.