Several From Horse Industry Among Flight 5191 Victims

Several people involved with horses were on board Comair Flight 5191, a CRJ-200 regional jet, when it crashed shortly after taking off from the Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Ky., on Aug. 27. According to Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the plane had used a runway designated for general purpose aircraft, which was too short for Flight 5191 to gain enough speed to take off. The FAA violated its own policy by having only one air traffic controller on duty at the time of the crash.

It was the country's worst domestic airplane accident in nearly five years.

All but one of the 50 passengers and crew died in the crash. The lone survivor, First Officer James Polehinke, was listed in serious condition at the University of Kentucky's (UK) Chandler Medical Center as of Sept. 5.

George Brunacini, 60, who bred 2005 Travers Stakes winner Flower Alley, Central Kentucky horseman Dan Mallory, 55, and trainer Jeff Williams, 49, were among the victims of the crash who had ties to the Thoroughbred industry.

Also on the flight were Anne Marie Bailey, 49, a Canadian veterinary technician returning from a conference in Lexington, and Larry Turner, PhD, 51, associate extension dean and director of the cooperative extension service at UK's College of Agriculture.

Paige Winters, 16, and her riding teacher, Thomas Fahey, 26, were also on board Flight 5191. They were in Kentucky looking for a new horse for Winters. Joan Winters was scheduled to fly with her daughter, but opted to stay behind at the last minute because the flight was overbooked, the Winters family said.

The initial investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board determined the pilot incorrectly used a shorter 3,500-foot runway rather than the 7,000-foot main runway for takeoff. The shorter runway is used by smaller, non-commercial aircraft during daylight hours; the longer path is used for commercial airliners. Flight 5191 departed in the pre-dawn darkness.

A second air-traffic controller has been added to the airport's overnight shift.

Memorials have been held for the victims. "We're devastated,'' said Fahey's father, Kevin Fahey on Aug. 29. "At this point, we're still struggling with the fact that this is all real."

About the Author

Chad Mendell

Chad Mendell is the former Managing Editor for TheHorse.com .

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com. Learn More

Free Newsletters

Sign up for the latest in:

From our partners