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The causes of airplane crashes are rarely singular. They tend to be combinations of multiple errors and defects. This story from shows just some of the individual causes that came together in Lexington to take the lives of 49 people.

Attorneys say revelations in crash investigation help lawsuits

The plane crashed on takeoff from Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport after the pilots taxied on to the wrong runway – one that was too short for a passenger jet.

National Transportation Safety Board documents outlining the initial investigation into the crash that killed 49 of the 50 people on board revealed that co-pilot James Polehinke and pilot Jeffrey Clay partook in casual conversation about their families, pets and job prospects before the plane took off on the wrong runway. Comair has acknowledged the pilots violated the FAA’s “sterile cockpit” rule, which bans nonessential conversation during critical times.

The documents also point to a systemwide failure that morning – from a undermanned control tower to a lack of lights on the runway to the pilots themselves – that led to the crash, attorneys said.

The issue of the plane’s crash worthiness and construction need to be analyzed before any definitive conclusions about Bombardier’s liability could be drawn, said Robert Clifford, a Chicago-based aviation law specialist representing several of the families.

Kate Marx, a spokeswoman for Comair, based in Erlanger, Ky., said she couldn’t address the specifics of the litigation, but the investigation into the crash has found multiple factors that contributed to the tragedy. Comair is working on improving its faults, something all airlines should look to do, Marx said.

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