Ky. Family’s Suit Over Comair Crash Faults Plane Design

November 7, 2006

A lawsuit filed by the family of one of the victims of a Kentucky jet crash that killed 49 people says many victims might have survived if the plane had not burst into flames.

Comair Flight 5191 crashed and burned shortly after taking off from the wrong runway at Blue Grass Airport on Aug. 27, killing everyone on board but the co-pilot, who escaped.

The suit from the family of victim Cecile Moscoe was amended to add the maker of the plane, Bombardier Inc. and Comair’s parent company, Delta Airlines, as defendants. The suit claims the aircraft design did not protect passengers from flammable jet fuel.

The attorney who filed the suit, Stanley M. Chesley of Cincinnati, said he reviewed autopsy reports and concluded most of the 49 deaths were caused by fire.

“Some or all of the passengers on this plane would have survived the crash except for the violent fire,” Chesley said. “The fire spread so quickly that the passengers never had a chance to escape.”

Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn first said the victims had died in the fire, but the next day he said most had died from blunt force trauma from the impact. The second statement came from speaking to the state medical examiner after the autopsies, which have not been made public.

The suit also claims that the aircraft, a CRJ-100, was defective because it did not include a runway awareness system to alert pilots they were on the wrong runway.

John Paul Macdonald, spokesman for Bombardier, said Friday night the planes in the CRJ family are among the safest in the industry.

Macdonald said the spread of fire in the planes has never been an issue. He also questioned the basis of the lawsuit’s claim.

“We’ll just have to wait and see the results of that crash investigation” by the National Transportation and Safety Board, he said.

Kathleen Moscoe, the administrator of Cecile Moscoe’s estate, seeks unspecified damaged from parties named in the suit.

About 20 percent of 1,153 fatalities on U.S. passenger flights from 1981 to 1990 were caused by fire, and several of the deaths occurred before collisions, Chesley said. And 40 percent of the fire fatalities are caused by smoke and toxic fumes from burning cabin materials and jet fuel.

No one could be reached for comment on the suit at Delta Airlines.

At least 13 other lawsuits have been filed in connection to the Comair crash.

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