Crash of Flight 5191

Families’ lawyers make push for more information

Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn yesterday said the same cause of death would be listed on all death certificates for victims of the crash of Comair Flight 5191.

“Multiple injuries and associated fire due to a commercial aviation accident” will be listed on all 49 death certificates, which should be available to families by next week, Ginn said.

Death certificates are different from autopsy reports, which will contain additional information, Ginn said. Specific injuries and a cause of death for each passenger will be listed on individual autopsy reports, he said. State officials have said autopsy reports could be released in six to eight weeks.

Some family members of the victims may be hiring experts to conduct private autopsies, said David Wise, a Chicago attorney who represents the family of crash victim Bryan Keith Woodward.

Wise and other attorneys representing families yesterday also pressed for airport and federal officials to release more information on the crash investigation.

Robert Clifford, a Chicago attorney who represents the family of victim Rebecca Adams, wants to bring in experts to inspect the airport runway and facilities and said, if necessary, he’ll get a court order this week. Airport officials said yesterday they will allow such inspections.

Stan Chesley, a Cincinnati attorney representing the family of passenger JoAnn Wright, said transcripts of taped conversations between the crew and air control tower should be released immediately.

Flight 5191 crashed shortly after takeoff from Bluegrass Airport on Aug. 27, killing 49 people. Only First Officer James Polehinke survived. He remains in serious condition at the University of Kentucky Medical Center.

Wise and Clifford said evidence needs to be preserved before any more demolition or construction is attempted at Blue Grass Airport.

Clifford said “discussions are under way to arrange for experts to inspect the airport runway, taxiway and facilities.”

The airport hasn’t received Clifford’s request to examine the runways and taxiways yet, but the administration has already decided it would allow people to do so as long as it’s related to the crash investigation, said John Coon, the airport’s director of operations.

Chesley, meanwhile, is calling for the release of information contained on the tapes of conversations between the pilots and the air traffic control tower. Just which agency has the responsibility for releasing the tape or transcripts -- and when -- is somewhat unclear.

According to NTSB spokesman Terry Williams in Washington, the NTSB does not make public the tape of the cockpit voice recorder. Portions of or an entire transcript may become part of a public hearing, report or NTSB board meeting.

“No determination has been made yet on that,” Williams said on Monday.

The FAA owns the tape of the air traffic controller communicating with the pilots, but the NTSB also uses it in its investigation.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said those recordings are not made public until the NTSB has released them.

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