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The Crash of Comair Flight 5191

Location: Washington, DC

THE CRASH OF COMAIR FLIGHT 5191 -- (Senate - September 05, 2006)

Mr. McCONNELL: Mr. President, it is difficult to put into words what the citizens of Kentucky are feeling. Nine days ago, tragedy struck the heart of our Commonwealth when Comair Flight 5191 crashed shortly after takeoff at Blue Grass Airport, in Lexington, KY. Forty-nine people perished.

This single, devastating event is of course not one story but many. This crash has brought grief into scores of families and countless lives, all over Kentucky and beyond. Holes that cannot be filled have been created in places like Lexington, Georgetown, Somerset, London, Harrodsburg, and Richmond.

Funeral services have been conducted across Kentucky over recent days, and I know I am joined by all Kentuckians in extending heartfelt sympathy for the families and loved ones of the victims.

After a catastrophe as great as the crash of Comair Flight 5191, sorrow can be overwhelming. Many people in my state are feeling that way now. And the entire state is struggling for answers in the face of such an unexpected tragedy that is so unbearable.

Since the crash I have been learning, as many Kentuckians have, about the lives of the victims, who they were and where they were going that day.

Four Kentuckians on the plane worked for Galls, a Lexington-based company that makes public safety equipment and apparel. Three of them were flying to New Orleans to help deliver new uniforms to New Orleans police officers after Hurricane Katrina.

Jonathan Hooker, 27, and Scarlett Parsley Hooker, 24, spent only hours together as husband and wife before they both boarded Flight 5191 to fly to California for their honeymoon. The Reverend Terry Gabbard married them the night before the flight in a beautiful evening ceremony in Lexington. One week later, he would speak at their funeral.

The deaths of these two newlyweds so soon after starting their lives together devastated many in their hometown of London, Kentucky. Jon had a lot of friends after attending London's North Laurel High School, where he was a star athlete.

He went on to pitch for the University of Kentucky baseball team from 1997 to 2001, and then to work as a professional minor-league baseball player. In the last few months of his life, he helped others as a substance-abuse counselor. He liked to play golf, and worked with a youth baseball league in London.

Scarlett, his wife, was a 2004 graduate of Centre College, in Danville, Kentucky, and was attending the University of Kentucky to pursue a master's degree in communication disorders. An avid swimmer, among the many friends she leaves behind are the members of a local London swim team she helped found: the Barracudas.

My friend Lee Todd, the president of the University of Kentucky, put it well when he said that this young couple ``held all the promise that youth and love carry.'' Because of the tragedy of Flight 5191, we will never get to see that promise fulfilled.

A promise was also snuffed out in Lexington at the same time--the promise of a father to a young son to watch him grow up. Clarence Wayne Fortney II, called C.W. by his friends and 34 years old, died in Flight 5191, leaving behind his wife Sarah and their 16-month-old son Calvin James.

C.W. was flying to Atlanta to report for work as a pilot for AirTran Airlines.

C.W. grew up in Stanton, Kentucky, and always wanted to be a pilot. Both his father and his grandfather were private pilots. When he was 5, his mother paid $35 for his first ride in a prop jet plane. C.W. realized his dream after graduating from Eastern Kentucky University with an aviation degree.

A kind man, during his and Sarah's courtship, C.W. helped care for her father with terminal cancer. As a pilot, he received commendations from Federal Aviation Administration officials who flew on his plane. A few days before the crash, he and Sarah celebrated their 8-year wedding anniversary.

This past Sunday, at C.W.'s funeral, 300 mourners pinned on pairs of pilot's wings. Mourners also got to see Mr. Lamb, a tiny stuffed lamb that C.W. bought for his wife on a whim about 3-years ago at an airport gift shop. Now, their toddler son Calvin James takes Mr. Lamb everywhere.

Sarah has said that as she raises Calvin James, she will be sure to teach him the words his father took as his motto: ``In dreams and in love, there are no impossibilities.'' We hope it is not impossible that one day, Calvin James will soar as high as his father did.

Last week's crash also robbed the world of Patrick Smith, 58, of Lexington. Pat's ultimate destination that morning was Gulfport, MS. That was only a short distance for him. Because of his volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity, Pat had traveled to Ghana, Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Mexico, and India to build houses for those less fortunate than he.

Pat was a member of Habitat for Humanity International's Board of Directors, as well as the board of his local Lexington chapter, and had served with the organization for more than 15 years. He excelled at organizing fellow volunteers from Kentucky and leading them in their humanitarian efforts.

Under his direction, 80 Kentucky volunteers constructed 26 houses in small fishing villages in southern India for people who had lost everything in the tsunami of 2004.

He also helped those closer to home. Pat's final trip to Gulfport was to follow up on the work he had already done in 7 trips to Mississippi before, for a project to build 13 houses on South Carolina Avenue to replace the ones that were washed away by Hurricane Katrina.

Pat's wife Jean often accompanied him on his projects, although last Sunday on Flight 5191 Pat traveled alone. Pat had done so much good work for the organization that he was named Habitat's volunteer of the year in 2003.

Several of Pat's volunteer projects were sponsored by his church, Cathedral of Christ the King. He worked as a partner at a Lexington industrial automation company, Versa Tech Automation.

Pat once stated very simply the reason he had dedicated so much of his time and efforts to volunteer work: ``We have an obligation to help.'' Now his wife, Jean, and their children and grandchildren will rely on the help of others as grief sets in.

I am glad that newspapers all across Kentucky have printed details like these about the victims of the terrible crash of Comair Flight 5191. This way we can know not just how these people died, but also how they lived.

I am also grateful that even in such dark times, the generosity and kindness of Kentucky continues to shine through. Local volunteers have been invaluable to the relief and recovery effort, and to the families that have been left behind to grieve.

Volunteers from local chapters of the Salvation Army served as chaplains and grief counselors. They also served more than 1,000 meals and over 6,000 snacks and drinks to relief workers at the crash site.

The Bluegrass Chapter of the American Red Cross fielded dozens of volunteers, who helped arrange memorial services for the victims' families. They also worked as grief counselors and provided meals. Both groups say they will stay as long as there are workers at the crash site.

Local businesses pitched in as well with food, and toys for kids like Calvin James Fortney and others who lost a parent.

The National Transportation Safety Board is currently conducting an investigation into the cause of this crash. I intend to do everything I can to ensure that investigation proceeds smoothly, and that all of the questions we have can be answered as thoroughly as possible.

Mr. President, I have only been able to talk about a few of the 49 souls that were lost on a Sunday morning. If there is no objection, I ask unanimous consent that the names of every person who died on Comair Flight 5191 be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

Comair Flight 5191
Rebecca Adams,47, Harrodsburg, Ky.
Lyle Anderson, 55, Ottawa, Ont.
Christina Anderson, 38, Inglewood, Ont.
Arnold Andrews, 64, Tampa, Fla.
Anne Marie Bailey, 49, Vancouver, B.C.
Bobbie Benton, 50, Stanford, Ky.
Jesse Clark Benton, 48, Stanford, Ky.
Carole Bizzack, 64, Lexington, Ky.
George Brunacini, 60, Georgetown, Ky.
Brian Byrd, Richmond, Ky.
Jeffrey Clay, 35, Burlington, Ky.
Diane Combs, Lexington, Ky.
Homer Combs, Lexington, Ky.
Fenton Dawson, Lexington, Ky.
Thomas Fahey, 26, Leawood, Kan.
Mike Finley, 52, London, Ky.
Clarence Wayne Fortney II, 34, Lexington, Ky.
Wade Bartley Frederick, 44, Danville, Ky.
Hollie Gilbert, Somerset, Ky.
Erik Harris, 28, Lexington, Ky.
Kelly Heyer, 27, Cincinnati area
Jonathan Hooker, 27, London, Ky.
Scarlett Parsley Hooker, 24, London, Ky.
Priscilla Johnson, 44, Lexington, Ky.
Nahoko Kono, 31, Lexington, Ky.
Tetsuya Kono, 34, Lexington, Ky.
Charles Lykins, 46, Naples, Fla.
Dan Mallory, 55, Bourbon County, Ky.
Steve McElravy, 57, Hagerstown, Md.
Lynda McKee, Richmond, Ky.
Bobby Meaux, Harrodsburg, Ky.
Kaye Craig Morris, Lexington, Ky.
Leslie Morris, Lexington, Ky.
Cecile Moscoe, 29, London, Ky.
Judy Ann Rains, Richmond, Ky.
Michael Ryan, Lexington, Ky.
Mary Jane Silas, 58, Columbus, Miss.
Pat Smith, 58, Lexington, Ky.
Tim Snoddy, 51, Lexington, Ky.
Marcie Thomason, 25, Washington, D.C.
Greg Threet, 35, Lexington, Ky.
Randy Towles, 47, Watertown, N.Y.
Larry Turner, 51, Lexington, Ky.
Victoria Washington, 54, Richmond, Ky.
Jeff Williams, 49, Centerville, Ohio
Paige Winters, 16, Leawood, Kan.
Bryan Woodward, Lafayette, La.
JoAnn Wright, 56, Cincinnati, Ohio
Betty Young, 74, Lexington, Ky.

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