Emotions and questions about Comair 5191 crash resurface at documentary screening

aroberts@herald-leader.comJuly 19, 2013 

After a screening of Sole Survivor at the Kentucky Theatre on Thursday, emotions about the crash of Comair Flight 5191 resurfaced and left audience members with mixed feelings about the cause of the crash, and its sole survivor, James Polehinke.

In the audience were families and friends of crash victims, as well as first responders.

Sole Survivor is a documentary film about sole survivors of commercial airline crashes, including that of Comair Flight 5191, which crashed at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington early on Aug. 27, 2006, killing 49 people.

Peggy Brown said she experienced "just a lot of mixed emotions" while watching the film. Brown's daughter was a friend of a daughter of Larry Turner, a Flight 5191 victim. Turner, associate dean for extension at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, was heading to an extension administrators' conference in Puerto Rico when he died.

Pilot Jeffrey Clay and co-pilot Polehinke received blame for the crash.

"I know why he believes he needs forgiveness," Brown said of Polehinke, with tears in her eyes.

Bob Bayes, Clay's father-in-law, said after the screening that "we always felt the pilots were not the sole cause."

"I think we already knew Jim (Polehinke) wasn't the lucky one, and I don't think Jeff could withstand what Jim has gone through," Bayes said.

The director of the film, Ky Dickens, did not attend Thursday's screening, but in a letter to the audience, Dickens said she made the film to "answer the 'why' questions."

Shawn Pruchnicki, who investigated the Comair crash as an investigator with the Airline Pilot's Association, was in attendance Thursday.

In the film, Pruchnicki addresses the causes for the crash. He recalled the morning of the accident as a complicated one and said several little things contributed to "the perfect storm."

"The goal of these investigations are not to find fault," he said before the screening. "But as a grieving family member it is much harder to find it that way."

Bryan Jared, one of the three policemen to pull Polehinke free of the plane, also attended.

"I came to the film to be with the families. I want to help them take that next step forward," Jared said.

"This was a tragedy that affected the Lexington community, and everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who died in that flight," he said.

The film has been screened in Minneapolis and Detroit, two other cities affected by sole-survivor crashes that are portrayed in the film.

Proceeds from Thursday's screening will be donated to Flight 5191 charities.

Anyssa Roberts: (859) 231-1409. Twitter: @heraldleader.

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