LIANE HANSEN, host:
From NPR News this is Weekend Edition. I'm Liane Hansen. A Comair commuter jet with 50 people on board has crashed near the Lexington, Kentucky airport. Forty-nine are now confirmed dead. There is one survivor. Flight 51-91 had just taken off from Bluegrass Airport when it crashed at about 6:07 a.m. Eastern Time. The flight was headed for Atlanta. Reporter Rick Howlett of member station WFPL is covering the story and he joins us by phone.
Rick, first of all, what do you know about the lone survivor and the deaths?
RICK HOWLETT reporting:
Liane, the lone survivor is the first officer on that flight. He was pulled from the wreckage by two local firefighters and a police officer. And as we speak he is in surgery at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. I do not know the extent of his injuries but it was the first officer on the flight who was pulled from the wreckage.
HANSEN: And what information do you have on a possible cause of the crash?
HOWLETT: No word yet on any possible cause. There was a press conference early this afternoon here at the site. There have been questions raised about whether the plane may have been taking off from the wrong runway, a runway too short for the plane. But officials at this press conference wouldn't really address that, only to say the investigation continues.
They have ruled out terrorism. There's no reason to believe at this point that this was any type of terrorist attack and appears to be either mechanical in nature or, as I mentioned, the possibility - and this has been unconfirmed by local officials - that the plane may have taken off from the wrong runway.
HANSEN: Can you tell us how the people who died, died? Is there information about that?
HOWLETT: The Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn also spoke at this press conference. He says it appears that most of the people who died were the victims of some sort of a fire-related death. There may have been some fatalities because of the impact, but most of them appear to be fire-related.
HANSEN: What kind of plane was it?
HOWLETT: It was a Canadian-made aircraft, a Bombardier Canadair. It had been in service since 2001 and no maintenance problems that we know of at this point. Officials say the last maintenance check actually was yesterday. And again, no maintenance problems, engine problems to report since it was in service in 2001.
HANSEN: And finally, in our last few seconds, what's the scene like at the crash site and near the airport where you are?
HOWLETT: Well, it's very somber. The officials spoke at this press conference a short while ago. The coroner says as they began doing the rescue and recovery work the officials had a short moment of silence before they began their work. Kentucky's forensic anthropologist is on the scene. And this is the largest event of its kind to happen in this area since I can remember, and I've lived here most of my life.
HANSEN: Reporter Rick Howlett at the airport in Lexington, Kentucky. Thank you very much, Rick
HOWLETT: You're welcome, Liane.
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