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Comair flight carrying 50 crashes in Ky.

Aug 27, 2006 | AP

A Comair flight carrying 50 people crashed a mile from Lexington's airport Sunday morning shortly after takeoff, the Federal Aviation Administration said. At least one person survived.

Comair Flight 5191, a CRJ-200 regional jet with 47 passengers and three crew members, crashed at 6:07 a.m. after taking off for Atlanta, said Kathleen Bergen, an FAA spokeswoman.

There was no immediate word on what caused the crash in a field about a mile from Blue Grass Airport. Light rain was falling at the time. The plane was largely intact afterward, but there was a fire following the impact, police said.

The University of Kentucky hospital is treating one survivor, who is in critical condition, spokesman Jay Blanton said. No other survivors have been brought to the hospital, he said.

Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn said the passengers and crew appeared to still be on the plane and the deaths were caused either by the impact or the "hot fire" on board.

"We are going to say a mass prayer before we begin the work of removing the bodies," Ginn said, referring to the chaplains who serve the airport.

A temporary morgue is being set up at the scene and the bodies will be brought to the state medical examiner's office in Frankfort, Ginn said.

Investigators from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were en route to the scene, FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said.

The airport closed for three hours after the crash, but reopened by 9 a.m.

Comair is a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines based in the Cincinnati suburb of Erlanger, Ky.

The Bombardier Canadair CRJ-100 is a twin-engine aircraft that can carry up to 50 passengers, according to Delta's Web site.

The crash marks the end of what has been called the "safest period in aviation history" in the United States. There has not been a major crash since Nov. 12, 2001, when American Airlines Flight 587 plunged into a residential neighborhood in Queens, N.Y., killing 265 people, including five on the ground.

On Jan. 8, 2003, an Air Midwest commuter plane crashed on takeoff at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, killing all 21 aboard.

Last December, a seaplane operated by Chalk's Ocean Airways crashed off Miami Beach when its right wing separated from the fuselage shortly after takeoff, killing the 18 passengers and two crew members. That plane, a Grumman G-73 Turbo Mallard, was built in 1947 and modified significantly in 1979.

The NTSB's last record of a CRJ crash was on November 21, 2004, when a China Eastern-Yunnan Airlines Bombardier crashed shortly after takeoff. The 6 crew members and 47 passengers on the CRJ-200 were killed, and there were two fatalities on the ground.

Bill Waldock, aviation safety professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona, said the crash was probably engine-related.

Investigators will look at the airplane's trajectory, Waldock said. "Typically, if the airplane went almost straight down with a small impact area, that would argue loss of control," he said. "If it came in straight, and the fuselage were intact, something might have put the plane down."

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