The nephew of comedian Jim Jefferies is presumed to have been killed in an Australian Army helicopter crash over the weekend — with officials saying hope of finding the crew alive “has been lost,” according to reports.
An MRH-90 Taipan helicopter was flying during a training event for Exercise Talisman Sabre — a joint nation military operation — near Lindeman Island in Queensland, Australia when it crashed at around 10:30 p.m. on Friday, News7 reported.
Lt. Maxwell Nugent — the comedian’s nephew — was onboard with Capt. Daniel Lyon, Warrant Officer Class Two Joseph Laycock, and Cpl. Alexander Naggs when their helo crashed in waters off the coast of the island.
Lieutenant Nugent is the son of senior New South Wales Police (NSW) Police Force officer Daniel Nugent — the brother of the internationally acclaimed comedian Geoff James Nugent, 46, who performs under the stage name Jim Jefferies.
Jefferies is reportedly flying back to be with his family in Australia from the US, the Daily Mail shared from reports made by 7News.
Rescue efforts for the missing aircraft have been ongoing since Friday, but “significant wreckage” recovered during the search now indicates the crew was killed in the “catastrophic incident,” Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles told the outlet Monday.
“It is now clear that any hope of finding Captain Lyon, Lieutenant Nugent, Warrant Officer Laycock and Corporal Naggs alive has been lost,” Marles told reporters.
The minister shared the families of the presumed dead have been notified, with searchers now focusing their efforts on recovering the bodies — saying the crew died “making a difference.”
A mix of over 800 military and emergency services personnel have joined in on the search.
“This effort will continue. We’ll be bringing our mates home,” Defence chief Angus Campbell said.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese praised all involved in the search efforts on Sunday — while reminding the public there are “no safe or easy days for those who serve in our country’s name.”
“On behalf of our nation, our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and colleagues of those who are missing,” Albanese said.
The crew belonged to the army’s 6th Aviation Richmond Unit out of Sydney and was called a “really tight team” by Australian Army chief Simon Stuart — explaining the men were part of a “highly skilled aviation unit.”
“We will continue to support their families and mates in the coming days, weeks, months and years no matter the outcome,” the chief shared. “I couldn’t be more proud of them – as professionals, as soldiers, and as people.”
An investigation is underway to find the cause of the crash.
The entire MH-90 Taipan fleet has been grounded as the investigation and recovery efforts continue.
Exercise Talisman Sabre is a multi-nation building training operation to build “relationships and friendships” between militaries, according to the DOD.
The exercise features Australian and US forces, including Fiji, France, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany.
The former Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton shared in 2021 that the European-made MH-90 Taipan helicopters would be replaced with new Black Hawks and Seahawks from the United States given its history of crashes and problems, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Taipan has been a project of concern for the last decade; it’s had nine instances where it’s been unsuitable to fly,” Dutton said two years ago.