Film director Ky Dickens and staff shooting 'Sole Survivor' documentary
CHICAGO (WKYT) - Before its theatric debut, a documentary on the crash of Comair flight 5191 is up for an award. "Sole Survivor" is one of the finalists for "Indie Project of the Year" from Indiewire, an website dedicated to small, independent filmmakers.
The documentary includes 5191 co-pilot Jim Polehinke's first ever interview and victims' families discussing the 2006 crash at Blue Grass Airport that killed 49 people.
The documentary has two main storylines: Polehinke and George Lamson who was the sole survivor of a 1985 airline crash that killed 70 people as it left Reno, Nevada, for Minneapolis.
"George was a passenger who ended up being a sole survivor and Jim was obviously a pilot who ended up being a sole survivor," said director Ky Dickens. "And I think we really can understand survivorship in a very comprehensive by looking at someone who was in control versus someone who just happened to survive."
In video from the film released to WKYT in May 2012, Polehinke is seen at his home in Colorado. Following the crash, Polehinke lost the use of both his legs. One of his legs was amputated.
"So being part of such a unique, small, perplexing group," said Dickens. "You can imagine that it helps a lot of heel if you can relate your experience to someone else's experience because that's just human nature."
While headed down the wrong runway, he and flight Captain Jeffrey Clay noticed something strange. There were no lights and the runway ended before the plane could be airborne.
After awaking from a coma, Polehinke learned the horrific news. He was the flight's only survivor and would never walk again while also facing the reality that he was one of the pilots at the helm of flight 5191.
Even during their investigation, federal officials never talked to Polehinke whose doctor told the National Transportation Safety Board at the time was "medically unfit" to be interviewed.
Eleven months later, the NTSB determined the probably cause was "the pilots' failure to use available cues and aids to identify the airplane's location and to cross-check and verify that the airplane was on the correct runway before takeoff."
"There are a lot of why questions that are not answered and will probably never get answered," said Polehinke.
In the more than five and a half years since the crash that killed 49 passengers and crew at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport, Polehinke had never talked publicly about the 2006 crash.
Polehinke and his wife Ida now live in Colorado. But a new home and new surroundings can't erase the memories of that day.
"I have an article that The Kentucky Herald [The Herald-Leader] had published that shows faces of the people were onboard. It gives profiles," said Polehinke.
"He kept that article with all the pictures of the people's faces and their profiles under his chair," added his wife Ida. "And he knows each person, their faces, and their names and what they did, where they were going."
"There are things he wants to say to the victims' families," said Dickens. "There are things that he wants to say about his perspective of what happened."