The family of a woman killed when Comair Flight 5191 took off on the wrong runway and crashed in flames sued the airline, blaming it for the United States’ deadliest airplane disaster in five years.
The lawsuit accuses Comair of negligence and says passenger Rebecca L. Adams suffered “conscious pain and suffering” when the plane went down Sunday morning and quickly burned with 49 people still inside.
The only survivor was the co-pilot, who remained hospitalized Friday but was upgraded from critical to serious condition.
The regional jet had left the gate before dawn with 50 people aboard. The pilots mistakenly turned onto the wrong runway, one too short for the twin-engine plane, and tried to take off. The plane crashed in a field just beyond Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport.
The crash “could not have happened if those having control of the instrumentality had not been negligent,” attorney Bobby Wombles of Lexington said in the lawsuit.
Adams’ son, Joshua Isaac Adams, said the family was pursuing legal action “so that we can one day have the answers we need.”
The action needed to be taken immediately to make the family a full part of the investigation, giving it power to subpoena witnesses who also are being questioned by federal investigators, said another of the family’s lawyers, Robert Clifford of Chicago. Other families also have contacted his firm, he said at a Lexington news conference.
No specific damage amount is listed in the lawsuit, which was filed in Fayette County Circuit Court.
Prominent Cincinnati attorney Stan Chesley also filed a suit on behalf of the family of victim Joann Wright, as well as a motion for a preliminary injunction, he said in a news release Friday.
That would allow his team to investigate the crash scene before wreckage is removed. He said any information his investigators gather from the scene would be shared with all Comair plaintiffs, regardless of their representation.
Nick Miller, a Comair spokesman, said he could not comment on pending litigation.
“Comair extends its heartfelt sympathy to everyone affected by the accident and our focus remains addressing the needs of family and loved ones in cooperating with the investigative process,” Miller said.
Earlier this week, a Texas law firm ran a full-page ad in the Lexington Herald-Leader promising to get maximum damages for the families of victims who hired it.
Comair, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines Inc., operates 850 flights to 108 cities daily. Both airlines filed for bankruptcy protection last year.
The Lexington airport board met in a private session Friday morning to discuss “proposed litigation” against it as well. Michael Gobb, the airport director, said at least one family of the victims had told the airport it intends sue.
Federal officials have been looking into how the plane ended up on the 3,500-foot-long (1,060-meter-long) runway, the shortest of two runways at the Lexington airport and meant only for small planes.
The taxiway to the 7,000-foot-long (2,100-meter-long) main runway had been altered by repaving one week before the crash.
In addition, only one air traffic controller was in the tower. The controller had had only two hours of sleep before starting work and had turned his back to do administrative work as the plane headed down the runway, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The Federal Aviation Administration has since added a second controller.
Associated Press writers Samira Jafari in Pikeville, Kentucky; Roger Alford in Stanford, Kentucky; and Brett Barrouquere in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.
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