Spain's Defense Ministry says three crew members of a military helicopter that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean have been rescued by a Moroccan patrol boat.

A note on the ministry's official Twitter account says the three were taken to the Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara town of Dakhla.

The helicopter went down Thursday afternoon about 280 nautical miles (519 miles) from its destination on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria. It had set off from Mauritania after refueling there following two weeks of military exercises in Senegal.

A Moroccan rescue helicopter sent to the scene spotted the aircraft floating and saw flares fired from a life raft before the patrol boat picked the crew up.

The ministry didn't say what might have caused the helicopter to go down.