Comair Names Federal Government, Ky. Airport in Lawsuits

August 16, 2007

Comair has named the federal government, Blue Grass Airport and an airport administrator in federal lawsuits filed against the airline by families of victims of last year’s fatal crash in Kentucky.

Comair spokeswoman Kate Marx said the filings Monday against the federal government and airport “are another step in the legal process to ensure that all parties we feel share responsibility for the accident are held accountable.”

Flight 5191 crashed shortly after taking off from the wrong runway last Aug. 27, killing 49 of the 50 people on board.

At least 39 families have sued Comair, Marx said. Several of the suits have been settled.

John Coon, the airport’s director of operations, is named as a defendant in the third-party claims. Coon, who helped oversee a major runway construction project weeks before the crash, is the first employee to be named as a defendant in the lawsuit, though Comair has previously sued unidentified airport employees.

Other unnamed employees for the Federal Aviation Administration and the airport are also listed as defendants.

Blue Grass Airport officials said Monday that they could not comment because they had not reviewed the claims. An FAA spokeswoman also declined to comment.

A Fayette County judge earlier this month ruled that the airport board is entitled to sovereign immunity. The airline said in a legal filing that it objects to the ruling and wants to preserve its rights in federal and state courts.

Comair attorneys have said the wrongful-death lawsuits in Fayette Circuit Court will be moved to U.S. District Court in Lexington.

Comair’s filings repeat claims it has made earlier. It claims the FAA was negligent because it understaffed the airport control tower, overworked the controller on duty and did not provide adequate information about the construction project, which involved a repaving of the primary runway and relocation of taxiways.

Comair has previously sued the FAA in federal court but withdrew its claims because it had not completed an administrative process required before it can sue the FAA.

The airline has said the airport shares blame in the crash because of poor runway markings, bad signage, lighting problems and other issues related to the runway repaving project. The National Transportation Safety Board recently ruled that the crash was caused because of mistakes by the two Comair pilots.

Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader,

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