Details Of Accident Clarified
"[The controller] expected the flight to take off from Runway 22," according to Debbie Hersman, of the NTSB. "He said the pilots didn't seem confused or disoriented" when he talked to them. The CRJ hit the grass off the end of the runway but then became airborne and was starting to climb when it crashed into trees. The jet reached a speed of 158 mph. The lone survivor of the crash, co-pilot James Polehinke, was at the controls, but it was the flight's captain, Jeffrey Clay, who had taxied the aircraft into position, the NTSB said. Clay then handed off the controls to Polehinke for takeoff. It was about an hour before sunrise, and Runway 26 was not lit, but the longer runway, 22, did have lights on, the NTSB said. Polehinke had landed at the airport two nights earlier, when the lights on Runway 22 were out of service, according to Reuters, but other reports said neither pilot had landed there since changes to the taxi routes in the last week or so. In the last two years, Clay had been at Lexington six times and Polehinke 10 times. Both pilots apparently had adequate off-duty time prior to the flight -- Polehinke had arrived in Lexington at 2 a.m. on Saturday, and Clay arrived at 3:30 p.m. The crew initially boarded the wrong aircraft when they checked in at 5:15 Sunday morning, the NTSB said, but were soon redirected to the correct airplane.
As of yesterday, Polehinke was still unconscious but no longer in a coma. He suffered numerous broken bones but was not burned. His condition remains critical, doctors said. Polehinke, 44, was hired by Comair in March 2002. Clay, 35, had been with the company since November 1999. On Monday night, crash investigators taxied a CRJ-100 around the airport for several hours, trying to get the same view that the pilots would have had.