Workers break ground on Flight 5191 memorial


Lexington residence gather at the UK arboretum for the groundbreaking ceremony of the monument dedicated to the victims of flight 5191. Photo by Scott Hannigan

By Drew Teague

Workers broke ground Friday afternoon for a memorial for Flight 5191 as friends, family and local leaders came together to remember those who died on that fateful flight.

Comair Flight 5191 crashed on Aug. 27, 2006, after taking the wrong runway at Blue Grass Airport, killing 49 of the 50 on board.

Those in attendance were happy to see such care and love from the community and to begin a memorial for their loved ones four years after the crash.

“The level of giving and the pouring of love at the time of the tragedy by the community and the state remains unabated today, four years later,” said Gerry Van der Meer, co-chair of the 5191 Memorial Commission and commissioner of State Parks, in his opening remarks.

Gov. Steve Beshear attended and said the day was marked by something more than honoring the lost souls because he too knew people on board the flight.

“It’s so very appropriate to be here in such a beautiful place on such a beautiful day to honor and remember 49 beautiful souls who in a tragic instant were torn from this world and set free four years ago,” Beshear said.  “But today is about more than bittersweet memories; it is about taking a step forward in something hopeful.”

Lois Turner, wife of Larry Turner, who died on the flight, said the service was more than just 7honoring the lost love ones.

“We are here today to remember them, to honor them,” Turner said. “And on this day there is also a feeling of gratitude. We are grateful for the privilege of sharing our lives with the loved ones we have lost. “

Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry came to support the memorial. He said the memorial has an excellent location and will bring the city closer to the memorial for those who died.

“Whenever we come to this spot in the future I hope the closeness of our community … reminds us all of the closeness our community felt as (we) comforted each other in the days and weeks following the loss of those 49 lives,” Newberry said.

Matthew Snoddy, member of the Flight 5191 Memorial Commission and son of Tim Snoddy, a victim, compares the day of the crash to other meaningful events in recent history.

“Much like the moon landings, President Kennedy’s assassination or the terrorism of 9/11, many in our community remember exactly where they were or what they were doing when they heard about the crash of Flight 5191,” Snoddy said.

Douwe Blumberg, a Kentucky artist, designed the sculpture.

Newberry was impressed that the sculpture will include a separate bird for each of the victims, all in an upward spiral motion and a special inclusion from each family.

“The individuality of the 49 silver birds serves as a distinct reminder of each of those whose lives were lost,” Newberry said.  “And the inclusion of personal mementos in each figure will provide families and friends with a strong attachment to this sculpture for decades to come.“

Snoddy talked about the mission of the Flight 5191 Memorial Commission and their focus for the past few years while working towards getting a memorial ready.

“There isn’t a playbook or set of guidelines on putting together a memorial like this,” Snoddy said.  “The wishes of the family members have always been the driving force (of the commission).”

Beshear was mindful of those who died four years ago, and said he felt they were watching down on the groundbreaking.

“I have a feeling that 49 beautiful souls are looking down on us today, who are also saying their thanks to the committee,” Beshear said.