(CBS/AP) Pilots of the Comair commuter jet that crashed with 50 people aboard near Lexington, Ky., used the wrong runway, CBS News has learned.
Forty-nine of the 50 people aboard were killed. The one survivor, a crewmember, was reported in critical condition. U.S. officials who requested anonymity told CBS News Correspondent Bob Orr that the pilots apparently used a runway that was too short to accommodate the takeoff of the jet. The officials said the pilots had made “a critical and fatal mistake.” The plane, Comair Flight 5191, a CRJ-200 regional jet with 47 passengers and three crew members, crashed at 6:07 a.m. Sunday after taking off for Atlanta, said Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
The plane was largely intact afterward, but there was a fire following the impact, police said. A little after 6 a.m., flight controllers gave the pilots clearance to take off from runway 22 and the pilots acknowledged the controllers with a “roger,” Orr reports.
However, it appears the pilots took off from runway 26, which is only half the size of the 7,000 foot runway 22. Sources tell Orr the radar tape and debris from the crash site suggest the plane never got airborne, that instead it went off the end of the runway and through a retaining area before settling into the crash site where it seems a significant post-crash fire erupted.