Flight from Lexington, KY to Atlanta crashes after takeoff

By: Drew Levinson, CBS News
By: Drew Levinson, CBS News

August 28, 2006

Federal investigators hoping for more answers today after Sunday's deadly Comair crash in Kentucky.

The big question: why was the pilot of the commuter jet using the wrong runway?

Investigators are combing the wreckage of Comair flight 5191 looking for answers.

"The data and evidence we have is this aircraft took off from runway 2-6," said NTSB member Debbie Hersman.

Runway 2-6 is a secondary strip, half the length of the 7,000-foot main runway at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport. 49 people died when the plane, which did not have enough time to lift off, crashed through a security fence, bursting into flames.

"The tail is in one section and there are pieces of a wing in another area," Hersman said. "The majority of the fuselage is in a separate area."

The sole survivor, James Polhinke, was pulled from the wreckage by a police officer. Polhinke is in critical condition, but his account of what happened should help investigators. The flight data recorders have also been recovered.

Investigators are focusing on conversations between the pilot and the control tower. They will also be looking to see if the airport runways were properly marked with signs and lights.

Comair says right now its top priority is the victims' families...like that of Kentucky college baseball player Jon Hooker and his wife Scarlett. They were heading on their honeymoon.

"Just a tragedy that on the happiest day of his life, he loses his life," said Doug Simunic, Hooker's former coach.

This is the first major airline tragedy since 2001...it was one the safest periods in U.S. aviation history. But that is little consolation for the families who lost their loved ones.

Comair, like Atlantic Southeast Airlines, is a Delta connector carrier.

ASA uses some of the regional jets to fly between Augusta and Atlanta.

Comair served Augusta with flights to Cincinnati for a short time several years ago.

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