Crash of Flight 5191

Scorched earth, the smell of jet fuel

A line of Lexington police officers stood at attention around yellow police tape, guarding the spot where 49 people lost their lives on Comair Flight 5191 early Sunday morning.

The officers’ heads were bowed as a small group of reporters and photographers visited the crash scene for the first time yesterday.

The air smelled of jet fuel and charred wood. The short path the plane had taken from the runway was clearly visible.

There was the destroyed airport fence, another fence still intact, then splintered trees, and a scorched swatch of earth that ran down a little valley and part of the way back up a hill.

The plane was in many pieces. The cockpit was nearly touching a line of trees. One of its windows was blackened, another was clear, another was missing. Investigators had turned it on its side. Nothing inside was distinguishable except wire and wreckage.

Parts of the engine, a few yards away, were charred. Fifty yards away, a large section of the plane’s tail lay smashed against a downed tree. In another area was a wheel from the landing gear.

Signs of the investigation were everywhere -- flags marking debris, fresh gravel on the path to the site, fire trucks, police cars and mobile units where relief groups served food to workers.

A large plastic sheet covered the ground outside the police tape; NTSB spokesman Terry Williams said it covered personal items.

What was not there was the plane’s seats and cabin, where most of the 49 victims died. The NTSB had taken them away.

Families of the victims will be given a private tour of the crash site today.

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