Crash of Flight 5191

Comair withholds 6 names from list

Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn met last night with family members of those who died in the crash of Comair Flight 5191.

Before going into a meeting with family members at the Crowne Plaza Campbell House in Lexington, Ginn said he did not know when he would complete next-of-kin notifications for each of the 49 people killed in Sunday’s crash.

Ginn said he hopes to follow normal procedures for his office and eventually publicly identify all victims involved after notifying families. The airline withheld six names from a passenger list it released publicly Tuesday.

After conferring with the Fayette County attorney’s office yesterday, Ginn said he was told it is up to the airline to release the identity of passengers in an air accident.

“From what I’ve been told the airline is the party that is supposed to be releasing the individuals’ (names) that perished,” Ginn said.

Earlier this week, Comair provided a complete passenger list to the National Transportation Safety Board.

However, the company decided to allow families the choice to keep their loved ones’ names off another list publicly released on Tuesday. Six did so.

“We thought it was the right thing to do,” said Josh Hammond, a spokesman working with Comair’s corporate communications, discussing the decision to allow families to opt out.

The Herald-Leader and other media have identified other victims after speaking with their families or employers.

An NTSB spokesman confirmed the airline’s obligation to turn over a complete passenger list to the federal agency, but said there is no law requiring it to make the list public.

“I think the law is silent on that,” said Ted Lopatkiewicz, director of NTSB public affairs, referring to the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996. “There’s no requirement that you do put it out.”

Attorneys contacted yesterday were surprised about the redactions.

“I’ve been doing aviation litigation for 30 years, and that’s the first time I’ve heard that,” said Stan Chesley, a Cincinnati attorney. In every airline crash case he has worked on, Chesley said, the names have been released.

Jeremy Rogers, a Kentucky Press Association attorney, said he was not aware of any law that prevents the release of passenger names. “The community and the public has a strong interest in knowing this kind of information,” he said.

In a 1994 article about a USAir Flight crash outside Pittsburgh, the New York Times noted four names were withheld at families’ requests from the list of 132 passengers that perished.

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