Four servicemembers were killed in the crash near the Piave River, about 20 miles south of Aviano Air Base. A fifth died Thursday afternoon while being treated at a nearby hospital.

On Friday, U.S. Army Europe officials announced that the seven passengers on board were Air Force members who were part of a training flight.

“This was a training flight which also afforded airmen the opportunity to gain a better understanding of joint operations and to perform a re-enlistment ceremony,” according to a USAREUR news release.

Capt. Jennifer Ferrau, chief of public affairs for the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano, confirmed all seven passengers were airmen based at Aviano. She said their names and details about a memorial service would be released late Friday night.

Although the military has yet to release the names of any of the victims, a report online by the WKBT television station identified one of the victims as Army Capt. Christian Skoglund, 31, of Racine, Wis. It said his father had reported his son’s death.

An official at the Ca’ Fontello hospital in nearby Treviso said doctors were still caring for three American servicemembers — including one who was listed in critical condition. The official, who declined to provide his name, said one soldier was to undergo surgery on his vertebrae on Friday and a female soldier was being treated for nonlife-threatening injuries.

The hospital official also said lone soldiers had been transported to facilities in Castelfranco and Belluno. An official in Belluno said the male patient there was undergoing chest surgery, but his injuries were not considered life-threatening. The condition of the patient at Castelfranco could not be obtained.

Italian authorities reportedly have launched an investigation into the incident, according to a report filed by the ANSA news service. That same report said that Italian rescuers said the helicopter had been conducting training near the river — dropping off and loading passengers. It said during a maneuver, the helicopter’s main rotor blade clipped the ground, causing it to crash and burst into flames.

Ferrau called such reports “speculation.”

“It’s too early to tell what happened,” she said. “It’s all under investigation.”

A team from the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., will be conducting the military’s investigation into what caused the crash.

The helicopter was assigned to Company G, 52nd Aviation Regiment, a small Army unit based at Aviano whose main mission is to provide escort for dignitaries.

Thursday’s crash occurred about 25 yards south of the river, about halfway between the cities of Treviso and Conegliano. There were no homes or other buildings within sight. Carabinieri officers are providing round-the-clock security around the crash scene, according to Lt. Col. Stefano Baldini of the Treviso office.

Valentina Lehman provided translation for this report.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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