Flight 5191: The story continues as pilot's wife shares her side - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Comair Flight 5191: The story continues

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(FOX19) -

Amy Clay doesn't like to be called a crusader, even though she has spent nearly the past eight years of her life on a crusade of sorts, one she never set out for. 

"For me, for my ability to sleep, my ability to look at my daughters and my ability to someday see Jeff on the other side and say I did that. I did everything I could," Amy Clay told FOX19's Amy Wagner.

On August 27, 2006, Amy's husband, Jeff - a Comair pilot - taxied to a runway for takeoff from Lexington's Bluegrass Airport with 49 others onboard.

"He just went to work every day like anybody else," Clay said.

But that day turned out to be far different from any other.

"I can remember him always telling me if anything ever happens, just know I did the best I could," Clay recalls.

Seconds after takeoff, Flight 5191 crashed into a field, killing Amy's husband, Jeff Clay and everyone else onboard except for the co-pilot, James Polehinke.  It was soon learned, the pilots had taken off from the wrong runway, one that was far too short.

"The union had told us, it's cold comfort but you can at least take from this that safety at small airports is going to be improved. There will be a legacy for this," Clay said.

The crash investigation revealed the control tower was understaffed. There should have been two air traffic controllers that morning, but the only controller on duty was turned around at the time the plane took off.

The airport was also under construction at the time, although charts did not accurately depict the construction.

And then, investigators released the fact that the pilots violated sterile cockpit rule, meaning there was too much nonessential conversation during takeoff. 

"Actually, it was about six words that were spoken once the sterile cockpit sets in," Clay said.

During the National Transportation Safety Board Hearing in Washington, D.C., Clay assumed all of those factors would come to light as contributors to the tragic crash, but the Board concluded the fault for the crash lied solely with the pilots.

"It was not right because I couldn't let Jeff rest like that, but on a broader side it wasn't right because nothing got fixed and that was just how could we let all of these people be gone for nothing," Clay said. 

Amy decided she couldn't, not for her husband, nor for their two young daughters. Armed with a decade and a half of public relations experience, she set out to set the record straight.

"Nobody's going to say anything.  I'm going to have to," Clay said. 

Amy Clay had already become an expert of sorts on the crash. She had poured over media accounts of the crash, aviation rules and regulations and the crash investigation. Then she received a call that answered her prayers. A producer working on a documentary on sole survivors of mass casualty plane crashes wanted to tell the whole story of the cause of the crash of Flight 5191. The sole survivor of that crash, James Polehinke was participating and they wanted Clay's help as well.

"To me that was God's work. I couldn't do that on my own. Not something I could engineer," Clay said.

Last month, the documentary "Sole Survivor" aired on CNN. Finally, Amy had taken her story to a national level. Amy also knows that story isn't without controversy. Some of the families of victims from Flight 5191 prefer to leave the cause of the crash at what the NTSB released.  While Amy says she completely understands that and doesn't want to cause any more pain to any of those families, she feels she has to do this for her family.

"I wanted that vehicle that explained this wasn't all daddy's fault in a clear, concise way that wasn't just mommy talking. We have experts saying that," Clay said.

Someday Clay will show the documentary to her daughters when they ask to know more about what happened to their father. It's her tireless labor of love for them and their father.

"I don't believe in closure. You don't ever get to say okay we're done with this!  But as far as what I need to do for him, I feel like he's at rest, so I can kind of be at rest too," Clay said.

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