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49 dead after Comair regional jet crashes in Kentucky PDF Print E-mail
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A Comair Canadair Regional Jet operating as Delta Connection Flight 5191 crashed after takeoff from Lexington, Kentucky at 6:07 a.m. Eastern Time, killing 49 of 50 people aboard. The sole confirmed survivor, First Officer James M. Polehinke, was taken to the University of Kentucky's Chandler Medical Center, where he is currently listed in critical condition. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the aircraft departed from a shorter runway than it was cleared to take off from.

The CRJ-200ER, which was en route to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, crashed into woods about one mile to the west of Lexington's Blue Grass Airport in Kentucky. According to Gary Ginn, the Fayette County coroner, there was a significant fire on board the aircraft after impact, after which it continued to move forward several hundred yards before coming to a stop. The aircraft however, is largely intact, said Ginn, and most of the passengers remained inside the cabin. Ginn said he expects the cause of death to be fire for the majority of the victims. The tail number has been confirmed as N431CA.


Based on information from the recovered flight data recorder and physical evidence from the crash site, the NTSB is focusing on the theory that, for unknown reasons, the pilot of Flight 5191 attempted to take off from the airport's Runway 26, a 3,500-foot strip certified only for general aviation flights, not airline traffic. The jet was cleared by the air traffic controller in the airport's control tower to depart from the 7,000-foot primary runway, Runway 22. However, course data from the "black box" indicated that when the aircraft took off and crashed, it was flying a heading of 260 degrees - the precise course of Runway 26. Given the runway length, it is likely that the aircraft did not gain enough airspeed to complete a normal takeoff.

Local police and fire fighters responded to the scene within minutes, and it has been reported that two off-duty police officers helped pull Polehinke from the cockpit of the burning jet.

Laura Brown, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration told CNN that there is no indication that terrorism was involved in connection with the crash.

Family members and friends who suspected that their loved ones may have been on Flight 5191 began arriving at Blue Grass Airport shortly after the crash. They have been taken to a local hotel, where staff from Comair as well as airport officials are caring for them and providing them with information. Comair has also set up a hotline where family and friends can receive information: the number is 1-800-801-0088.

Among the victims of Comair Flight 5191 were a couple who had just been married, that were starting their honeymoon and a man who wanted to leave on an earlier flight to return home to be with his children.

A moment of silence was held for the crash victims before the Los Angeles Dodgers-Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game in Phoenix, where Brandon Webb, a former Kentucky baseball teammate of newlywed passenger Jon Hooker, is a pitcher. Another passenger, Charles Lykins of Naples, Fla., wanted an early flight so he could get home to his two young children after visiting friends and family in the Lexington area, said Paul Richardson of Winchester. Mike Finley, 52, who lived in Corbin and owned the Finley Fun Centers, was headed to Reno, Nev., for a rollerskating convention, said his son, David Taylor. "I'd say there's thousands of kids who grew up with our father," he said.

Rick Queen, who works for Turfway Realty in Lexington, said his father-in-law, Les Morris, was on the flight. Queen and Taylor were both frustrated with how Delta handled the families. "I just felt Delta ran families around this morning for three hours. I finally got some help from a Lexington firefighter," Taylor said.

Flight attendant Kelly Heyer was single and lived in the Cincinnati area. He had been working for the airline since 2004 and was recently appointed base representative for the flight attendant union said Tracy Riley, a union secretary and fellow Comair flight attendant. "He was a standup individual," Riley said. "He was very professional, loved the job."

Bornhorst described his own reaction as "complete devastation" and he lamented the frustration of the families as they awaited word. "When tragedies like this happen, information can just not be relayed fast enough and I certainly understand the frustrations related to that," Bornhorst said.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 29 August 2006 )
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