Settlement Reached in Two Lawsuits Against Comair

The estates of two victims of the Comair 5191 crash have reached legal settlements with the airline.

The estates of Priscilla Johnson and Mary Jane Silas, two of the 49 victims who died in the Aug. 27 crash, have agreed to confidential settlements with the airline, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Lexington. Comair is a regional carrier and owned by Delta Air Lines Inc., which is in bankruptcy protection.

"By reaching an agreement on the claims, we are fulfilling our commitment to ensure prompt and fair settlements for the families of this tragic accident," Kate Marx, a spokeswoman for Erlanger-based Comair, said Monday. "We also remain committed to doing what is reasonable for each of the passenger families, and we have every motivation to continue to pursue fair compensation for the victims."

The flight crashed in the pre-dawn darkness shortly after takeoff from the wrong runway that was too short at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington.

Comair has admitted to federal investigators that its pilots were partly responsible, but also said better systems for alerting airlines to taxiway changes might have prevented it.

Blue Grass Airport, aircraft manufacturer Bombardier and the air traffic controllers' union pin most of the blame on the pilot and co-pilot. The co-pilot, James Polehinke, was the only survivor of the crash.

In addition, Comair argued that the FAA needs a better approach to runway surveillance. Only one controller was on duty at the time, and if there had been more, the accident might have been prevented, Comair said.

Marx said 29 separate lawsuits have been filed against Comair on behalf of 38 passengers.

Johnson's estate had filed suit against the airline, but a legal claim had not yet been filed by Silas' estate, according to court documents.

Edward Stopher, a Louisville attorney representing Comair, did not immediately return a message seeking comment Monday afternoon.

Johnson, 44, a 16-year employee of Lexington-based uniform maker Galls, was headed out of town on vacation. She was accompanying three co-workers who were taking police uniforms to hurricane-ravaged New Orleans.

Silas, 58, was returning to her hometown of Columbus, Miss., after wrapping up issues related to her late mother's estate, friends said after the crash.

The settlements aren't likely to impact the remaining cases against the airline, said Brad Manson, an attorney representing the family of 16-year-old Paige Winters, who died in the crash.

"It's too early. There's a lot of work yet to be done," said Manson, of Overland Park, Kan. "People settle for all sorts of reasons. We're not ready to settle ours yet."

Winters and her riding teacher, Thomas Fahey, 26, were flying back to Leawood, Kan., after visiting Lexington in search of a new horse. Winters' mother, Joan Winters, stayed behind in Lexington because the flight was overbooked.

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