Loved ones have 'credible voice' in making changes

LBLACKFORD@HERALD-LEADER.COMJuly 27, 2007 

For Lois Turner, yesterday's National Transportation Safety Board meeting brought traumatic memories of Aug. 27, 2006. But the nearly eight-hour discussion of the airplane crash that killed her husband, Larry, carried with it an equally uncomfortable realization:

"It reminded me of the many missed opportunities of that day," she said. "If just one precaution had been observed, this tragedy wouldn't have happened, and we would have our loved ones."

Turner was one of about 25 family members who showed up in the Regency ballroom at Lexington's Hyatt Hotel yesterday to watch the satellite feed of the meeting. Initially, technological problems meant family members couldn't hear the opening remarks.

Several people said before the meeting that they didn't expect any new information but wanted to hear the summary of how their loved ones were lost.

Melissa Byrd came from Richmond to bear witness for her family, who lost her brother, Brian Byrd, in the crash, along with his fiancee, Judy Rains.

"We felt like one of us needed to be present," said Melissa Byrd. "I don't expect any surprises. It's been a very long year. At this point, we don't care who's to blame. It doesn't make any difference."

Before the meeting began, Anita Threet, the wife of victim Greg Threet, said the crash remains vivid.

"I'm right back there," Anita Threet said. "We relive this every day. Life will never be the same for me and my children."

Threet has three children, one of whom was an infant at the time of the crash. Her children are now ages 10, 6 and 1.

"I'm not expecting surprises," she said. "I've been very impressed with all the agencies. Whatever information they have has been given to us."

Several Lexington police officers, members of Hospice of the Bluegrass and NTSB officials were also at the Hyatt. An NTSB investigator was also at the meeting to answer technical questions from the families.

Sheriff Kathy Witt also attended.

Anger and frustration

But the depth and breadth of the information proved too much for some. At noon, Threet said she'd heard enough about the errors that led to the crash.

"It's very difficult rehashing this," she said before leaving. "I'm feeling a lot of emotion right now, and most of it is anger.

"The tone of the NTSB says a lot," she said, about "how frustrating it is the decisions that were made."

By 4 p.m., the crowd had thinned some more.

"It's long, and I really would rather watch it at home," said Matthew Snoddy, whose father, Tim Snoddy, was on the plane.

Earlier, Snoddy said the meeting was painful, but "I'm glad we're able to close the door."

Barry McKee, husband of victim Lynda McKee of Richmond, said: "There's no surprises."

He said the meeting confirmed that the pilots made errors.

"It hurts deeply," he said of the lasting effects from the crash. "It's anger, it's hurt, it's loneliness. It all goes together."

Despite the intensely technical discussion, Lois Turner said she was gratified by the attitudes of the NTSB staff and board members.

"I'm so impressed with the integrity, the professionalism, the sincerity and the obvious caring of the people who have researched this accident and the people who are responsible for determining the cause," she said. "They're very impressive, and I don't feel like they're going through the motions. They're genuinely concerned about finding the cause."

Getting involved

At the end of the hearing, NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker urged the families to get involved in making some of the safety recommendations a reality, saying they have a "credible voice."

Wyn Morris, the son of Leslie W. Morris II and stepson of Kaye Craig Morris, both of whom died in the crash, said that while he didn't feel the hearing brought closure, he may take the NTSB chairman's advice.

"The point is to avoid anything like this ever happening again," he said.

Turner said with a little more healing, she, too, might become an advocate.

"I believe one of the advantages of being part of a public tragedy is being able to facilitate change," she said. "One of the things I learned today, if nothing else, if we can implement some of these changes ... just one of these changes would have prevented the accident."Reliving the tragedy in Lexington

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