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On Flight 5191 crash anniversary, families and friends of victims look forward to permanent memorial

Thursday marks the third anniversary of the crash of Comair Flight 5191 in Lexington, and some families and friends of the 49 people who perished have planned a private gathering to remember their loved ones.

At this time next year, they might be able to reflect at a permanent memorial.

The Flight 5191 Memorial Commission announced recently that it was seeking professional artists and landscapers for the creation of a memorial in the Arboretum on Alumni Drive.

"We'd certainly like to have it up by the fourth anniversary," said Ray Garman, co-chairman of the commission.

While seeking professionals to create the memorial, the commission has also begun raising money to pay for and maintain it. The commission anticipates that the permanent memorial, including a future maintenance endowment, will cost up to $250,000.

"We have requested contributions from Com air, and we are in discussions with the governor and the mayor about support, and we anticipate public support," Garman said. "We do anticipate this will be a permanent memorial, and we intend to fund it in perpetuity."

The memorial is to be located in a rose garden developed by Hospice of the Bluegrass. The commission, which includes members of crash victims' families, wants a central water feature, benches, a permanent marker with the victims' names and landscaping in keeping with the surrounding area.

The commission wants the memorial to be uplifting, serene and enduring, Garman said.

Commission co-chairman Gerry van der Meer said the commission looked at Transylvania University, Jacobson Park, the Aviation Museum of Kentucky and other sites before settling on the arboretum.

"The reason that the arboretum came to the top is because it represents life," said van der Meer, the state parks commissioner, who at the time of the crash was general manager of the Campbell House, where relatives of crash victims gathered just after the tragedy to receive information.

"I think it's a very appropriate thing for the Arboretum to do as befits its place in the community. It's certainly consistent with the purpose and the goals of the Arboretum," said Scott Smith, dean of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, which is responsible for the supervision of the Arboretum.

"The design process is a long one, and I know it will be a real challenge to come up with something that merits this position," said Smith, who was the boss of crash victim Larry Turner, who was director of extension in the college.

"Our family is happy that we are moving along to get a permanent memorial installed," said Jennifer Smith Combs, who lost her father, Pat Smith, in the crash. "We need a place to visit in remembrance of my father and the other 48 loved ones that were lost. We're looking forward to choosing the artist to make this happen. We are pleased with the site at the Arboretum Hospice reflection garden."

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