Human remains have been found in the search for the victims of a “catastrophic” military helicopter crash off Australia’s north-east coast.

Four Australian soldiers are presumed dead after the MRH-90 Taipan chopper ditched into the sea during a multinational military drill on Friday.

A major search operation has since located debris, and now the cockpit.

Australian authorities are investigating the incident as criticism over the use of the aircraft grows.

The helicopter went down near the Whitsunday Islands during Exercise Talisman Sabre – a massive training operation which every two years gathers 30,000 military personnel from Australia, the United States, and several other nations.

Authorities immediately launched a search for the missing soldiers onboard – Capt Danniel Lyon, Lt Maxwell Nugent, Warrant Officer Class Two Joseph Laycock and Cpl Alexander Naggs, all from the Sixth Aviation Regiment.

But on Monday the defence minister said there was no longer any hope of recovering them alive, after the search party located debris consistent with a “catastrophic incident”.

On Thursday, the search coordinator announced another debris field – this time including major parts of the fuselage – had been found some 40m below the ocean surface.

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