Remembering 5191 | Lexington marks crash's 10th anniversary

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A decade ago Comair flight 5191 headed down the wrong runway at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport killing 47 passengers and two of its three crew members.

The time was 6:07 a.m., Sunday, August 27, 2006.

In the hours, days, weeks and months afterward, families looked for answers as the community came together to support them in their time of grief.

"During the hardest, most difficult time in people's lives they still were reaching out to comfort each other," Deborah Hersman, who was the government's lead investigatior into the crash, told WKYT this week. "The most abiding memory, I think, of that crash is really the sense of community."

Most of the passengers were from the Lexington area. The youngest passenger was 16, and the oldest was 72.

A banner and two memorial services became focal points for the outpouring of community support in the weeks after the crash followed by a sculpture at the University of Kentucky Arboretum was unveiled on the crash's fifth anniversary. The sculpture of 49 birds taking flight, representing each of the lives lost in the crash, contains a small cylinder permanently sealed inside each bird with mementos from loved ones.

"It was very sad for our community," said Teresa Isaac who was Lexington's mayor at the time. "I think our community pulled together as well as any community could. We really wrapped our arms around the families."

Eleven months after the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable 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."

While headed down the wrong runway, Captain Jeffrey Clay and First Officer James Polehinke noticed something strange. There were no lights and the runway ended before the plane could be airborne.

"There are a lot of why questions that are not answered and will probably never get answered," said Jim Polehinke, the first officer and sole survivor of the crash. Polehinke didn't talk publicly about the crash until he was featured in a 2012 documentary called "Sole Survivor." "The accident again is as fresh as it was yesterday. I have an article that The Kentucky Herald had published that shows faces of the people were on board. It gives profiles."

Federal officials never talked to Polehinke whose doctor told the National Transportation Safety Board at the time was "medically unfit" to be interviewed.

360-degree view of the Flight 5191 Memorial Sculpture at the University of Kentucky Arboretum

Check out this 360-degree of the Flight 5191 Memorial Sculpture. #theta360 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Flight 5191 memorial banner created after the 2006 crash

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