HONOLULU — A U.S. military plane crashed and caught fire as it tried to land during training exercises in Hawaii, killing one Marine, injuring 21 other people and sending black smoke billowing into the sky.
Their injuries ranged from critical to minor, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific spokesman Capt. Alex Lim said.
The tilt-rotor aircraft, which can take off and land like a helicopter but flies like an airplane, had a "hard-landing mishap" around 11:40 a.m. Sunday at Bellows Air Force Station on Oahu, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit said in a statement.
The MV-22 Osprey had 22 people aboard — 21 Marines and one Navy corpsman assigned to the unit, spokesman Capt. Brian Block said in an email.
The unit is based at Camp Pendleton in California and is in Hawaii for about a week of training. The Osprey was being used for training at the time of the crash, the cause of which was under investigation, Lim said.
Kimberly Hynd said she was hiking the popular Lanikai Pillbox Trail and could see three Osprey aircraft performing maneuvers from her vantage point in the hills above the base.
She noticed them kicking up dirt but then saw smoke and fire. Hynd, who estimated she was 2 to 3 miles away, didn't hear the sound of a large crash.
"It looked like they were doing some sort of maneuver or formation — and so I was taking pictures of it because usually you can't see them that close up," Hynd said.
Donald Gahit said he looked outside his house after hearing sirens pass by and saw smoke rising from the air station.
"At first I thought it was clouds, but it was moving fast and it was pretty dark," the Waimanalo resident said.
Ospreys may be equipped with radar, lasers and a missile defense system, and each can carry 24 Marines into combat.
Built by Boeing Co. and Bell, a unit of Textron Inc., the Osprey program was nearly scrapped after a history of mechanical failures and two test crashes that killed 23 Marines in 2000.
The aircraft have since been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Some Osprey also are helping with earthquake relief efforts in Nepal.