Families of Comair passengers try to stay patient as they await answers

Monday, August 28th 2006, 10:01 pm
By: News On 6

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) _ Families of some of the 49 victims of the Comair crash attended briefings on the investigation and said Monday they were not ready to place blame.

``We're very curious, but I'm not interested at this point in pointing fingers,'' said Wyn Morris, whose father, Leslie Morris, and stepmother, Kay Morris, both of Lexington, died in the Sunday morning crash of Flight 5191 at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport.

Morris said the loss was still sinking in, and that he made himself take his 9-year-old son to school Monday just to maintain a sense of normalcy.

``I guess we're waiting to hear the whys and the hows,'' he said.

The regional airliner took off from the wrong runway, a strip with a cracked surface that was too short for the twin-engine jet, clipping trees and crashing into a field and bursting into flames, investigators said. The crash killed everyone on board but the co-pilot, who was pulled from the cockpit wreckage in critical condition.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher met with victims' families Monday evening after cutting short an economic development trip to Germany.

``This is a major tragedy for our commonwealth. ... Right now, I feel it's most important to be here,'' Fletcher told reporters before visiting families at The Campbell House, a Lexington hotel where dozens of families are staying.

The victims' burned bodies were taken to the state medical examiner's office in Frankfort.

The crash was an ``ugly twist of fate,'' said Orlando Salcione, whose son-in-law, Charles Lykins, 44, of Naples, Fla., was among the victims.

``All these things just happened, and to blame anyone right now would be unfair,'' he said.

Salcione said Lykins had been playing golf with relatives in Lexington, and hadn't planned to fly out until Sunday afternoon. He took the earlier Atlanta-bound connector because ``he wanted to get home early for his kids.''

``He was a great guy, a family man, and that was why he was on that flight,'' Salcione said.

Comair is a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines Inc. Delta has called on 160 employee volunteers to help families cope.

The volunteers offered relatives counseling, investigation updates, flight arrangements and even clothes, said Brian Cobb, family assistance liaison for Comair. Families who choose not to fly into Lexington are receiving updates and support via phone.

``It's really whatever the family needs at the time,'' Cobb said Monday.

Dozens of family members attended the regular briefings given at a Lexington hotel by airline and federal officials. As many as 600 family members are expected to arrive at The Campbell House this week, said Gerry van der Meer, the hotel's general manager.

Some, like David Taylor, expressed frustration about what they saw as a lack of information. Taylor's father, Mike Finley, 52, of Corbin, was killed in the crash.

``I just feel Delta ran families around,'' Taylor said Sunday, referring to Comair's parent company.

Others tried to stay patient. ``I think they've done a decent job,'' Morris said.

Fletcher said that a tour of the crash site left him ``speechless,'' and that it's crucial for authorities to brief families ``as quickly as possible.''

The victims included Paige Winters, 16, of Leawood, Kan., and Thomas Fahey, 26, her neighbor and horse riding coach. They and Winters' mother had been in Kentucky to find a new horse for the girl, but Joan Winters had stayed behind at the last minute because the flight was overbooked, the Winters family said Sunday.

``We're devastated,'' Fahey's father, Kevin, told The Kansas City Star. ``At this point, we're still struggling with the fact that this is all real.''