Three members of the United States Marine Corps that died following an Osprey crash in Australia were identified by the military.
According to a press release from the Marine Corps, 1st Lt. Benjamin Cross, 26, Cpl. Nathaniel Ordway, 21, and Pfc. Ruben Velasco, 19, have all been declared dead after “extensive search and rescue efforts” following the crash were suspended August 6. Their remains weren’t recovered after the search, Marine spokeswoman Lt. Christina Matzler told CNN.
The Osprey, referred to by the Marines as an MV-22, lifts off like a helicopter and rotates its propellers to fly like an airplane. The Marines said that the aircraft was carrying 26 Marines and was launched from the USS Bonhomme Richard to conduct a regularly scheduled operation when it crashed at about 4 p.m. local time August 5.
The rescue effort included small boats and military aircraft. It saved 23 of 26 service members that were onboard the aircraft, but Cross, Ordway and Velasco went missing. The Australian navy located the wreckage underwater August 7.
The tragic incident occurred near Queensland, about 15 miles of the shore of Shoalwater Bay Training Area.
In a statement, Col. Tye Wallace, the commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit said the three men “left a lasting impression on the 31st MEU, the Marine Corps, and the world,” adding that “they will live on forever in our thoughts and our hearts.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Cross Was From Maine & Attended the Virginia Military Academy
Cross, a native of Bethel, Maine, was a Marine aviator and had been training in Australia for the past three months, the Virginia Military Institute wrote.
Cross had attended the Virginia Military Institute on a Naval ROTC scholarship and held the rank of Company G 1st Platoon lieutenant in the Corps of Cadets. While at the institute, Cross majored in economics and business and was a member of the scuba club. He graduated in 2013.
According to the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, Cross was stationed on the Japanese island Okinawa for the past year before moving to Australia to train.
Cross graduated from Telstar Regional High School in Bethel in 2009 and was a frequent name in the school’s honor roll. He received numerous scholarships during his senior year in high school, including a President’s Award for Academic Excellence.
2. Friends, Family & Colleagues Remember Cross as an Upstanding Person
Family and friends learned Cross was one of the missing Marines on August 5 and held out hope he would be located alive. However, they received the news that he was being considered “deceased” August 6.
Cross’ older brother Ryan said to the Press Herald that he was dedicated to his career.
“He was so smart and just a great guy,” Ryan said to the publication.
Ben gave was the best man and gave a speech at Ryan’s wedding, giving the crowd “classic Ben humor,” he told WMTW News.
“I was waiting for the day when I would be the best man at his wedding,” an emotional Ryan told the news outlet. “He was my rock, and now I don’t have him there, and I’m not really sure what I’m going to do.”
Ben’s mother Val told WMTW that he was a caring, loving person.
“I have so much I want to say, but to put it in words, it would take forever to express the love that we had and have still for him in the family,” she said.
3. Ordway Was From Kansas & Played on His High School Football Team
Ordway was from Sedgwich, Kansas and was with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265, III MEF, a military news release said.
Ordway’s decorations in the military included a National Defense Service Media, a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and a the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. He graduated from Wichita Heights High School, where he was on the football team. After graduating from the school, he joined the Marines.
A family friend of Ordways said that his family was notified of he had died early in the morning, a report by KWCH News said.
“I talked to one of his family members, and they said that The Marines came to their door at about 1 a.m., and they are pretty much pronouncing him dead,” the family friend told then news outlet. “They’re pretty much giving up on him, and it’s not fair.”
On the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Facebook page, Ordway’s sister Taylor asked people to send prayers to those involved.
“Please pray for my brother and the two other marines,” she said in a post.
A colleague of Ordways said in a Facebook post that he had “the pleasure of helping (him) into the Marines Corps.”
“Even though I did not have the pleasure to personally recruit him, I remember talking to him hours on end about being a crewchief and remember how excited he was to become a Marine,” The Wichita Eagle reported.
4. Velasco Was From the Los Angeles Area
Velasco was from the Los Angeles area and was assigned to the Battery G Battalion’s Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, the news release from the military said. His decorations included receiving the National Defense Service Medal as well as the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Velasco graduated from West Covina High School in 2016, the principal of the school said on Twitter.
A friend of Velascos told The Los Angeles Times that he was as a “supportive friend” that had a tendency to make just about anyone laugh.
“If you needed someone to cheer you up or someone to make you laugh, someone to make you smile, he was there,” Spencer Bocanegra told the newspaper. “You kind of woke up every day looking forward to seeing Ruben.”
Bocanegra posted a tribute of his late friend to Twitter.
5. Velasco’s Girlfriend Shared Memories of Them Together to Twitter
Velasco had a baby brother at home in California, but “was a big brother to everyone,” Bocanegra said to The Times.
Velasco had celebrated his 19th birthday on July 30, and posted photos of him with kangaroos and an ostrich to Twitter to show how he was celebrating.
Friends and family members wished him a happy birthday on Twitter, with one in particular encouraging him to “stay safe” while living in Australia.
Velasco also posted several pictures with his girlfriend, Nikki, to Twitter, including one prior to him being deployed saying that he’ll miss her.
In December 2016, Nikki and Velasco showed their love for each other by getting matching tattoos.