15 years later: Man remembers cousin killed in Flight 5191

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Posted at 8:08 PM, Aug 27, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — August 27 is a difficult day across the commonwealth, but especially in central Kentucky.

Fifteen years ago, Comair Flight 5191 crashed outside of Lexington.

Anthony Combs remembers the morning of the crash.

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"Every time I would call and it would ring and ring, I was just hoping that he would answer," Combs says. "And every time the voicemail picked up, just more fear and heartbreak."

Combs and Jon Hooker were cousins. Hooker was one of the 49 people who died in the crash. The plane was heading to Atlanta, where Hooker and his wife, Scarlett, were stopping en route to their honeymoon.

"I was just really wishing and hoping and praying that this was a nightmare, that I would wake up and this day would start over," Combs says.

The Hookers got married the day before the crash.

"Last words he said to me -- told me he loved me. I told him the same thing. I've known him through everything. And when I knew him through that relationship, was the happiest I had ever seen him."

Combs and Hooker were a part of each other's lives as cousins, but more like brothers, for nearly 30 years. They grew up as boys but became men.

"Jon and I had even discussed plans about refereeing some basketball games together and coaching baseball together and just the things we always admired."

Hooker went to the University of Kentucky, played baseball collegiately and professionally. Even those who did not have the chance to know him, keep him close.

"I try and live every single day to honor his life," Combs says. "Whether I'm coaching baseball or I'm out playing catch in the backyard with my son, who is named after him, we just want to honor Jon in every single way and we do."

To some, the number 33 might just be a number. For this family, it's everywhere.

"He [Anthony's son] wears number 33 just like Jon did. The only player I've ever coached that is allowed to wear that."

Combs has the number tattooed on his forearm.

"I take him with me everywhere I go."

Once a boy himself and now a father, Combs can't help but think of his own children and the relationships they will develop.

"Nothing in this world would have made me happier than for my kids to have friends like I had with Jon."

"I think the biggest thing he would tell me is that he's proud. I think he would push us to be better every day."