Flt 5191 Families seek compensation for financial, emotional losses

LEXINGTON, KY -- Filed among more than 3,000 court pleadings, pretrial memorandums for the families of victims of Comair Flight 5191 provide new details about their horrific deaths nearly two years ago -- and the families' suffering and loss since, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal in its Sunday edition.

Brian Byrd, who had boarded Comair Flight 5191 on his way to be married on a Caribbean island, was burned alive when the plane crashed, his family's lawyers say. He was found with his arm wrapped around his fiancée, Judy Rains, reports the Courier-Journal.

Salutatorian of her senior class at Lexington's Henry Clay High School and a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Virginia, Marcie Reynolds Thomason, 25, a certified public accountant, would have made more than $20 million in her lifetime, her family's lawyers say.

Joan Winters watched her 16-year-old daughter Paige board the doomed flight at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport, then for hours desperately tried to reach Paige by cell phone. Nobody would tell her why the airport had suddenly closed.

Lawsuits filed for the estates of Byrd, Thomason and Paige Winters have been settled, but three sample Comair cases are scheduled for trial a week from tomorrow in U.S. District Court in Lexington, where a jury will be asked to fix liability for the disaster and to award compensatory and punitive damages, reports the C-J.

The plaintiffs allege that Capt. Jeffrey Clay and First Officer James Polehinke committed a series of inexcusable blunders before they took off from the wrong runway and crashed on Aug. 27, 2006, killing all aboard except for Polehinke.

The families also allege that Comair was negligent in training both pilots and in hiring Polehinke in 2002 without discovering that he'd been convicted of drunken driving in the early 1990s and was involved in a 1999 domestic dispute that ended with his wife shooting him, the C-J reports.

Comair has admitted its pilots made errors but has blamed the 2006 crash in part on the Federal Aviation Administration, for violating its own rules by having only one controller on duty. The controller has said he turned his back as the aircraft was taxiing to work on administrative chores.

The airline's claims against the airport and a company that makes airport diagrams were dismissed. The families' lawsuits name Comair and Polehinke as defendants; some families also have filed claims against the U.S. government over the FAA's role, the newspaper reports.

In a statement issued last week, Comair spokeswoman Kate Marx said there is "no question that that accident has had a tremendous effect" on the families of victims, among others. She declined to respond to the lawsuits' specific assertions about economic damages or injuries.

The National Transportation Safety Board said last year that pilot errors were the probable cause of the crash, but a contributing factor was the FAA's failure to require air traffic controllers to issue specific clearances to cross runways, reports the newspaper.

Airline disaster lawsuits rarely get to trial, and opposing counsel in the Comair cases have negotiated a flurry of settlements in the past few weeks. Only 10 of 47 suits were still pending as of Friday, and it is possible that the balance will be resolved this week, averting the Aug. 4 trial.

The settlements are confidential, but Chicago lawyer Robert Clifford, whose firm resolved cases for five victims, said Comair "treated my clients fairly."

Yet Kathleen Moscoe, whose daughter Cecile Moscoe, 29, was killed as she headed to New Orleans to help Hurricane Katrina victims, said in an interview that her recent settlement provides little solace.

"I don't think anything would," she said, declining to provide settlement specifics, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Copyright - The Louisville Courier-Journal

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  • by VT on Jul 30, 2008 at 06:10 PM
    As I said no one understands at all unless you have walked in our shoes these past two years.
  • by VT on Jul 30, 2008 at 02:05 PM
    So let me see, if you are hurt at work, and can no longer work due to someones error at your job Compensation would pay you for the time lost on the job that you can no longer work at due to an accident.you are forever changed and can no longer work. The company would pay you a settlement, right? You would lose all your 401k and medical benefits too. So lets see, we are greedy?! I do not think so. That accident was needless and took our loved ones who will never come back. We who are in this, will be Compensated for what our loved ones would have made in the future, as if they were still here! My husband would have always made sure I had a roof over my head and food to eat! All the money in the world will not bring him back. the grief is overwhelming and puts you in a place that we should not be in. Before you judge us, you should all walk a mile in our shoes and have some compassion. I see that some have none at all. If you do not understand it, try too! and see what happens.
  • by Chrissy Location: Downtown on Jul 30, 2008 at 07:16 AM
    Only 10 of 47 Lawsuits remain? Now, who doesn't nbelieve this is about money?
  • by Anonymous Location: kentukcy on Jul 29, 2008 at 10:58 PM
    I have to agree with Margie to a point. I believe if they want to sue they should do it for the right reasons, to make sure it doesn't happen again. Not to become instant millionaires. To VT I lost my grandfather to carelessness did our family sue for wrongful death no, we made sure that the ladies responsible will never work in the medical field again. The lawyer told us we could make a lot of money from their wrong doings, but we were out to get rich, we were out to protect people.
  • by kevin Location: lex on Jul 29, 2008 at 06:42 PM
    melissa,hold your head high,you dont deserve 1 million,you and your family deserves 100 million.there is no money in the world to compensate what you and the other families have went through.god bless you and that little boy.i truly feel for all involved in this horrible accident.
  • by Melissa Byrd Hill Location: Richmond on Jul 29, 2008 at 04:11 PM
    Toe/Jam--my family and all the others would be grateful if this was no longer considered news any longer. Fed up--I am pretty certain that none of the families would ever be quoted as saying that the money made them feel better. Greed plays no factor. Most of us would gladly give up all we have to get our loved ones back. Also, as I said previously--my parents, myself, my children, and all the others grieving for my brother do not get any money--we only get to endure the pain of losing him. I only want my nephew taken care of.
  • by vt on Jul 29, 2008 at 02:48 PM
    To Margie, you are mean and spiteful! no other words for you. you will never understand. No one will unless they are in the shoes of the ones left behind.
  • by Bonnie Location: Richmond on Jul 29, 2008 at 01:21 PM
    Margie, Your comments suggest jealously over these families because you are not receiving anything. Let one of your family members suffer this way and see if you are not one of the first ones to file a lawsuit. Things change when the shoe is on the other foot, wouldn't you say? I knew 3 familes that had loved ones on that flight.
  • by Fed up Location: floyd county on Jul 28, 2008 at 04:00 PM
    Oh yeah money will make everything all better! They lost their families but money makes it all better! One word here...GREED!
  • by Anonymous on Jul 28, 2008 at 10:15 AM
    It's not about being greedy its about someone paying for what someones careless mistake caused these people.. Stop pointing fingers, becuase they are always 3 pointing back
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