U.S. military probes chopper crash
Blackwater USA security firm identifies six of its dead
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. military investigators Friday surveyed the Iraqi crash site of a helicopter suspected to have been shot down by insurgents. Two insurgent videos appear to confirm that scenario.
The helicopter was en route from Baghdad to Tikrit.
All 11 people onboard -- six Americans, three Bulgarians and two Fijians -- have died.
Of them, one man apparently survived the crash only to be shot dead afterward by insurgents near the wreckage, a video shows.
The Bulgarian subcontractor Heli-Air Services identified the man as Lubomir Kostov, one of the Bulgarian commanders on the aircraft.
Bulgaria said all three Bulgarians were civilians and identified the other two as Georgi Naieeno and Stoyan Anchev.
U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the six Americans were assisting the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which protects diplomats.
The security firm Blackwater USA, based in North Carolina, identified the six Americans as its personnel.
The men were listed as: Robert Jason Gore, 23, of Nevada, Iowa; Luke Adam Petrik, 24, of Conneaut, Ohio; Jason Obert, 29, of Fountain, Colorado; Steve McGovern, 24, of Lexington, Kentucky; Eric Smith, 31, of Waukesha, Wisconsin; and David Patterson, of Havelock, North Carolina.
"We are devastated by the loss of our friends," Blackwater President Gary Jackson said in a statement. "They were true American patriots and heroes who were performing a mission that is critical to the success of the coalition efforts to secure peace and freedom in Iraq."
Blackwater said the "commercial helicopter" was "owned and operated by Heli-Air Services, a Bulgarian subcontractor to SkyLink Air and Logistic Support under contract to Blackwater in support of a Department of Defense contract."
Eighteen Blackwater employees have died since the war in Iraq began, the company said. (Full story)
Blackwater is one of a number of private security contractors that hire veterans for jobs previously assigned to the military.
Headed by former U.S. Navy SEALs, it was founded in part to take advantage of business opportunities created by the downsizing of the U.S. military.
The company is based at a 6,000-acre site in rural North Carolina, a campus the company calls "the most comprehensive private tactical training facility in the United States."
The U.S. military said it had secured the crash site area and transported remains to Balad Air Base and wreckage to Baghdad International Airport for examination.
Investigators of the crash include multinational forces and Iraqi interpreters. People from Blackwater and SkyLink have also been invited to take part.
On Friday, the Arabic-language TV network Al-Jazeera aired video appearing to show a commercial helicopter being shot down.
The video showed an MI-8 helicopter flying low and away from the camera. Two loud blasts were followed by the helicopter erupting in flames and falling to the ground with a trail of thick, black smoke.
While the source of this video was not immediately known, Al-Jazeera said it was distributed by The Army of the Mujahideen.
The group's logo was seen in the upper right corner of the screen. Al-Jazeera's anchor said the group was claiming responsibility for the downing.
The emergence of the video and claim came one day after another insurgent group -- The Islamic Army in Iraq -- said it downed the helicopter and shot to death its lone survivor.
Its claim was also accompanied by the release of a video on Islamic Web sites showing the burning wreckage and a man's execution.
The man was shot more than 15 times in a field of high grass, some distance from the apparent crash site. Burning debris can be seen in the background.
CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of either video.
Journalist Venelin Petkov in Bulgaria contributed to this report.