A 29-year-old former Belleville resident and Althoff Catholic High School graduate was one of three U.S. Marines killed in the crash of a hybrid military aircraft on Sunday in Australia.
Capt. Eleanor “Ellie” Cooke, formerly LeBeau, was one of the two pilots, according to her mother, Victoria LeBeau, of Belleville.
“We’re very proud of her, and by giving her life, she saved 20 other people,” LeBeau said Monday afternoon.
An MV-22B Osprey crashed about 9:30 a.m. Sunday on Melville Island, north of Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory while transporting troops during a routine training exercise, according to a U.S. Marine Corps news release.
There were a total of 23 people on board. Twenty were taken to the hospital. Twelve were released, and eight Marines remained hospitalized on Monday, the Associated Press reported.
“The Marines aboard the aircraft were flying in support of Exercise Predators Run,” the news release stated. “Recovery efforts are ongoing. The cause of the incident is under investigation. Further details will be provided as the situation develops.”
As of Monday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Defense hadn’t released names of the victims.
“As a matter of policy, the military typically waits 24 hours after notifying next of kin of a death before publicly releasing a deceased service member’s name,” according to the Marine Corps Times.
Marine representatives visited the LeBeau home on Sunday morning to notify the family of Cooke’s death.
Cooke attended Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, where she was a member of the Racers’ dance team, according to the athletic department website. She joined the Marine Corps in 2018 and married Chase Cooke, another Marine pilot. He wasn’t in Australia at the time of the crash.
Jill and I send our deepest condolences to the families of the Marines who lost their lives in this deadly crash. We are praying for those who also suffered injuries. https://t.co/sztAUHbpeB
— President Biden (@POTUS) August 28, 2023
Victoria LeBeau and her husband, David LeBeau, have seven other children. She called them a “military family” with several members who have served, including David LeBeau.
Ellie Cooke attended Blessed Sacrament Catholic School in Belleville before Althoff and Murray State.
“I want the world to know who my daughter was and what she did for this country,” said Victoria LeBeau, an art history student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
About 150 Marines are stationed in Darwin for Exercise Predators Run, which also involves the armed forces of Australia, Malaysia and the Philippines, according to the AP.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin paid his respects to the crash victims on Sunday.
“These Marines served our country with courage and pride, and my thoughts and prayers are with their families today, with the other troops who were injured in the crash, and with the entire USMC family,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
Emergency responders are expected to remain at the crash site for the next 10 days as part of the investigation.
The other two Marines who died in Sunday’s crash were identified later Monday in a news release from the Marine Rotational Force, Darwin, Australia. They included Cpl. Spencer R. Collart, 21, of Arlington, Virginia, and Maj. Tobin J. Lewis, 37, of Jefferson, Colorado.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to clarify that Ellie Cooke was 29 at the time of her death.