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Newlywed Baseball Player Dead In Crash

Former University of Kentucky pitcher Jon Hooker, 27, of London, Ky., and his wife Scarlett Parsley were among the victims killed when Comair Flight 5191 crashed shortly after takeoff at Blue Grass Airport, in Lexington, Ky., Sunday, Aug. 27, 2006.
AP
A newlywed couple starting their honeymoon and a man who took an early flight to get home to his children were among the victims of Comair Flight 5191, friends and relatives said Sunday.

Jon Hooker had just married Scarlett Parsley the night before the crash in a ceremony with 300 friends and relatives at Lexington's Headley-Whitley Museum.

"It's so tragic because he was so happy last night," said Keith Madison, who coached Hooker's baseball team at the University of Kentucky and attended the wedding. "It's just an incredible turn of events. It's really painful."

Hooker, 27, had signed a free agent with the Chicago White Sox in June 2001 and played professionally for Independent League teams in Fargo, N.D., and Joliet, Ill., before returning to his hometown. He was working as a parole counselor and social worker while Parsley, 23, was in graduate school at Kentucky, Madison said.

Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks general manager Josh Buchholz said Sunday was "a sad day for Fargo." Hooker helped the Redhawks win the Independent League championship in 2003.

"Jon was a class guy and a great guy to have in Fargo," he said. "He touched a lot of people's lives. He was a fantastic teammate; he was a wonderful representative of our ballclub."

A moment of silence was held for crash victims before the Dodgers-Diamondbacks game in Phoenix, where Hooker's former Kentucky teammate Brandon Webb is a pitcher.

Hooker, of London, Ky., was working as a parole counselor and social worker while Parsley was in graduate school at Kentucky, Madison said. She was a former cheerleader at Centre College in Danville.

Parsley arrived for her wedding to Hooker in Lexington on Saturday night in a horse-drawn carriage.

"It was the happiest she'd been," said Jarod Martin, a longtime friend of Parsley's who was among the 300 friends and family members in attendance. "It couldn't have been more perfect."

Charles Lykins of Naples, Fla., wanted an early flight Sunday so he could get home to his two young children after visiting friends and family in the Lexington area, said Paul Richardson of Winchester.

Mike Finley, 52, who lived in Corbin and owned the Finley Fun Centers, was headed to Reno, Nev., for a rollerskating convention, said his son, David Taylor.

"I'd say there's thousands of kids who grew up with our father," he said.

Rick Queen, who works for Turfway Realty in Lexington, said his father-in-law, Les Morris, was on the flight. He said Comair brought all the family members into a room at a Lexington hotel, told them the plane had crashed and family members died, then gave them an 800 phone number to call.

Queen and Taylor were both frustrated with how Delta was handling the situation.

"I just felt Delta ran families around this morning for three hours. I finally got some help from a Lexington firefighter," Taylor said.

The only survivor among the 50 people aboard the plane was the flight's first officer, James M. Polehinke. He was pulled from the burning wreckage by a policeman and two airport workers and taken to University of Kentucky Hospital, where he was list in critical condition.

The pilot, Jeffery Clay, had been with Comair since 1999 and became captain in 2004, Comair President Don Bornhorst said.

Flight attendant Kelly Heyer was single and lived in the Cincinnati area. He had been working for the airline since 2004 and was recently appointed base representative for the flight attendant union said Tracy Riley, a union secretary and fellow Comair flight attendant.

"He was a standup individual," Riley said. "He was very professional, loved the job."

Bornhorst described his own reaction as "complete devastation" and he lamented the frustration of the families as they awaited word.

"When tragedies like this happen, information can just not be relayed fast enough and I certainly understand the frustrations related to that," Bornhorst said.