Ky. Comair Crash Survivor Sues Designer of Runway Lights

The sole survivor from the airliner that crashed after taking off from the wrong runway at Lexington, Ky.’s Blue Grass Airport, killing 49 people, is suing the company that designed the runway and taxiway lights.

James Polehinke, the co-pilot of Comair Flight 5191, filed suit against AVCON Inc. on Aug. 24, three days before Monday’s first anniversary of the crash.

The Comair jet crashed in the pre-dawn darkness on Aug. 27, 2006, shortly after taking off from the wrong runway, an unlit general aviation strip that was too short for larger commercial aircraft. Comair is based near Cincinnati in Erlanger, Ky.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined last month that the pilots’ failure to notice clues that they were turning onto the wrong runway was the primary cause of the crash.

The lawsuit says AVCON Inc., of Orlando, Fla., was responsible for runway lighting at the airport that was “so erratic, haphazard and/or improper that many commercial pilots, including the pilots of Flight 5191, could not rely on or expect the lighting for the runways and taxiways to comply with applicable laws, rules, regulations procedures and orders.”

Airport officials and federal investigators have said that the main runway’s edge lights were working on the morning of the crash, although lights in the center of that runway were out. Other aircraft took off safely that morning before the Comair plane.

The lawsuit says Polehinke suffered a “traumatic brain injury,” neurological injuries, broken bones, “scars and disfigurement, loss of use of parts of his body and an activation or aggravation of a pre-existing disease or physical condition.”

Calls Monday to AVCON and Polehinke’s lawyer, Bruce Brandon, were not immediately returned.