Archive for Thursday, September 7, 2006

Pilot doesn’t know about crash, family friend says

September 7, 2006

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— James Polehinke, the sole survivor of Comair Flight 5191, might not realize that he was in a plane crash, a family friend says.

"He doesn't even know about the accident," said Antonio Cruz, the boyfriend of Polehinke's mother, Honey Jackson. "He knows that he is in the hospital, and he knows he has to go through operations."

Polehinke, the first officer, was at the controls when the plane took off from the wrong runway at Blue Grass Airport and crashed in a nearby field, killing 49 people Aug. 27.

He spoke for the first time Tuesday. "Why me?" Cruz said Polehinke asked. "Why is God doing this to me?"

His mother told him it wasn't God, just an accident, Cruz said.

Jackson didn't have time to ask Polehinke, 44, what he meant, because he was being taken into surgery at the time, Cruz said. Doctors have told family members not to talk to Polehinke about the crash.

Cruz said he believes Polehinke's questions were not directed at the crash, but at the pain he felt.

Cruz spoke by phone from Florida, where he and Jackson live. He has stayed in contact with Jackson, who came to Lexington to be with her son.

Polehinke's wife, Ida Askew, issued a statement through the University of Kentucky. "We know that if Jimmy were able, he would want to reach out personally to everyone impacted by this tragedy to provide comfort and express his deepest sympathies," she said.

The statement added that Polehinke is "still not completely lucid for any sustained period of time."

When Polehinke arrived at the hospital soon after the crash, he was in severe shock from bleeding. He had broken bones in his face, leg, pelvis, breastbone, ribs and spine and a collapsed lung.

Doctors at UK have worked to stabilize his condition. Polehinke emerged from a medically induced coma last week and began breathing on his own Monday. He is still in serious condition.

Cruz said that Polehinke's injuries prevented him from saying much. "He can't talk completely yet," Cruz said. "His mouth is in bad shape."

He has asked about his brother and his dogs, Cruz said.

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