Runway Mistake Caused Fatal Crash - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Runway Mistake Caused Fatal Crash

NTSB investigators confirmed Sunday night that the crash of a Delta-Comair commuter flight from Lexington, Kentucky to Atlanta came after the jetliner took off on the wrong runway. 49 people died.

As night fell at the Lexington airport investigators had already found key evidence on runway 26; a short strip at Bluegrass Airport, and from one of flight 5191's black boxes.

"We have ground scars at the end of Runway 26 as well as some preliminary information from the flight data recorder that shows the aircraft was lined up on a heading of 26," said Debbie Hersmann of the NTSB.

Strong evidence flight 5191 was on the wrong runway. CRJ's like the plane that crashed Sunday, need about a mile run to safely take off. Runway 22 was supposed to be used Sunday morning is long enough and well lit. Short runway 26 is neither, but flight 5191 roared down that strip without enough length to take off. "So there's a high probability that this flight crew may have tried to make the airplane fly," said former NTSB investigator Greg Feith. "Of course it wasn't ready and it did get airborne but then settled back to the ground."

The small jet sheared off trees. Witnesses saw a flash of fire. "The units that arrived on the scene observed the aircraft, observed movement from the front of the aircraft and then extracted the first officer from the nose of the plane," Scott Lanter of the Bluegrass Airport told reporters.

Co-pilot James Polehenke was the only survivor. 49 people died including Lexington sports star John Hooker who was married the day before the crash.

All 49 bodies have been recovered from the wreckage. No positive identifications have been made yet but preliminary autopsies have been conducted on more than a dozen bodies.

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