08/27/2006 11:00PM

Crash kills several horsemen


LEXINGTON, Ky. - At least three Thoroughbred horsemen and two Standardbred owners were among the 49 people killed Sunday when a Comair regional jet crashed in at 6:07 a.m. shortly after takeoff from Lexington's Blue Grass Field airport. Flight 5191 was headed to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and was carrying 47 passengers and three crew members. All but one, co-pilot James Polehinke, were killed.

Polehinke underwent surgery at the University of Kentucky hospital Sunday and was listed in critical condition on Monday.

Among the confirmed dead were George Brunacini, breeder of Grade 1 winner Flower Alley and owner of Bona Terra Farm in Georgetown, Ky.; Lexington horseman Dan Mallory, a Thoroughbred breeder, owner, and seller who was a familiar face at auctions; and trainer Jeff Williams, who was based at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington. Also on board, according to an official at Woodbine Entertainment in Canada, were Standardbred trainer Lyle Anderson, owner of River Ridge Farm in Ottawa, Ontario, and Standardbred breeder Christina Anderson, who was building a Standardbred broodmare band in Canada.

Brunacini, 60, bred Flower Alley, winner of the 2005 Travers, and Victory U.S.A., third in the 2003 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. He recently had enjoyed a highly successful sale at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling auction, selling a $650,000 Distorted Humor-Our Tomboy colt and a $250,000 Tale of the Cat-Spree filly.

Mallory, 55, had been headed to Texas for the upcoming Fasig-Tipton Texas summer yearling sale, which began Monday. Mallory has a consignment at that auction. Mallory owned Meadow Haven Farm in Paris, Ky. Among the stakes winners Mallory sold were Traces of Gold, whom he also bred, Honor Glide, and Danthebluegrassman.

Williams, 49, had been heading to Texas to meet with representatives of the Austin Polo Club, members of his family told River Downs publicist John Englehardt. Williams, whose background was with polo ponies in Ohio, was an assistant trainer to Smiley Adams in the 1970's before going out on his own.

Lyle Anderson, 55, was returning to Canada after racing a horse at Lexington's Red Mile harness track on Thursday evening. Anderson was traveling with Christina Anderson.

Also among those confirmed dead in the crash were Marcie Thomason, 25, daughter of Mill Ridge Farm business manager Bill Thomason and his wife, Barbara, and Larry Turner, associate dean of the University of Kentucky's agriculture extension department.

Federal investigators confirmed Monday that the plane, a Canadair CRJ-200, had taken off from the wrong runway, departing from a 3,500-foot runway rather than the 7,000-foot runway it should have used.

The plane crashed on private rural property near the intersection of Versailles Road and Rice Road. The location is on the opposite side of Versailles Road from Keeneland Racecourse, which was being used as a staging area for emergency personnel.

In a press conference Sunday in Erlanger, Ky., Comair president Don Bornhorst said that a complete list of casualties would not be released until the identities have been confirmed and families have been notified.

FAA and National Transportation Safety Board investigators were investigating the crash site, Bornhorst said. Lexington coroner Gary Ginn told reporters that the plane was mostly intact with passengers inside but had endured what he termed a "hot fire" upon impact.

Comair has established a toll-free hotline for family and friends seeking information at (800) 801-0088.

The United Way of the Bluegrass has established a fund for families of those killed in the crash. Contributions may be made to 5191 Care Fund, 2480 Fortune Drive, Lexington, Ky., 40509.