An American Eagle employee ran toward the runway when he realized Comair Flight 5191 was taking off from Runway 26, Blue Grass Airport’s general aviation runway, according to an interview conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Kerry Ray Williams of Winchester told the FBI that he watched the beacon light on the tail of the plane as it rolled down the runway. The tail of the plane never lifted off the ground.
“He saw the beacon light drop, as if the nose of the plane had lifted off and was going to gain altitude. The beacon light did not rise from the ground, and then he saw an orange flash,” the FBI’s report said.
“He then heard an explosion, followed by several ‘popping’ noises, then three or four other explosions,” the report said. “He said the popping noises sounded like trees snapping. Although he heard the subsequent explosions, he did not see any more flames.”
Williams, a station agent for American Eagle, completed a security check on American Eagle Flight 882 just before 6 a.m. when Comair Flight 5191 taxied past him on its way to the runway.
The plane made a very sharp turn to the left which Williams believed was a sign that the plane was turning around to return to the terminal.
Instead of heading to the terminal, Williams “heard the engines engage ‘full throttle,’ and watched the plane travel on Runway 26,” the report said.
Williams was one of several witnesses interviewed by the FBI and National Transportation Safety Board about the Aug. 27 crash of the Comair Flight 5191.
Williams and Bill Giltner, a farm worker living on the farm where the plane crashed, were the only witnesses who saw the plane takeoff or crash.
Giltner was making coffee when he heard a sound like a “freight train,” according to an interview record with the NTSB.
“He then looked out of the open door of the trailer and saw the airplane’s landing lights coming in his general direction. He then saw the airplane strike the ground once, possibly two times before becoming airborne and striking a grouping of trees on the property,” the interview record said.
Giltner said the plane was about 10 feet in the air when it struck the first trees. After the plane clipped the trees, Giltner’s view of the plane was obstructed by the horse barns on the farm.
“He was able to see the light from the explosion and fires as well as the plume of smoke that resulted from the crash,” the interview record said.
The NTSB and FBI interviewed other witnesses, including the air traffic controller on duty, a Lexington resident who heard the explosion when the plane crashed and airline employees who had contact with the flight crew prior to or during departure.