Doctors at the University of Kentucky Hospital have amputated the severely injured left leg of James Polehinke, the co-pilot of Comair Flight 5191 and its only survivor, according to a statement released yesterday by his family.
Polehinke was piloting the jet when it crashed during takeoff at Blue Grass Airport, killing 47 passengers, the pilot and another crew member. The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, has not released any findings about the cause but said yesterday that toxicology tests had not found alcohol or illicit drugs in the systems of Polehinke or the pilot.
Polehinke's trauma surgeon, Dr. Andrew Bernard, said yesterday that Polehinke's family has told him that he was involved in the crash, and that he was the sole survivor. The family indicated his recovery has been difficult and has not yielded any answers about the crash.
"James still does not remember anything about the tragic crash," said the family statement, released by the hospital. "He remembers his loving and devoted family and his dogs. He knows that he wants to return home soon." Polehinke is from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"We want to continue to express our most sincere and heartfelt thoughts and condolences to all the families of the victims of this tragic accident," said Polehinke's mother, Honey Jackson, and his wife, Ida Askew. "Their loss can never be restored, but they remain in our constant thoughts and prayers." They thanked his rescuers, supporters, doctors and the hospital.
According to the family statement, released by University of Kentucky Hospital, doctors there have performed several surgeries on Polehinke, 44. His left leg was removed on Sept. 14. They also have operated to repair complicated fractures of his right leg and foot. He will require more surgeries, including one for a spinal fracture. Jackson and Askew said they still don't know the severity of the spinal fracture.
"He is more wakeful at times and more communicative, but is still not completely lucid and currently has no recollection of the accident," the family said.
Polehinke was pulled from the burning wreckage by rescuers. He suffered massive blood loss and had broken bones in his face, legs, pelvis, breastbone, ribs, spine, right foot and thumb and a collapsed lung.