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ValuJet Pilot Remembered as ‘Fantastic Individual’

May 13, 1996

BEDFORD, Texas (AP) _ A yellow rose was taped Sunday to the apartment door of ValuJet Capt. Candalyn Kubeck, remembered by a neighbor as ``a fantastic individual.″

Kubeck, 35, was the pilot of ValuJet Flight 592, which nose-dived into the Florida Everglades as it attempted to turn back from a flight to Atlanta on Saturday, killing all 109 people aboard.

Airline officials said Mrs. Kubeck had nearly 9,000 total hours of flight time, including 2,073 hours with ValuJet and 1,697 as a captain with the airline.

``Very experienced, very well-trained, very competent,″ ValuJet President Lewis Jordan said.

Family members also mourned 21-year-old flight attendant Jennifer Stearns, who boarded the doomed flight at the last minute to fill in for her best friend.

``I’m sure when the plane was going down, she was doing her best to try to calm everybody,″ said her father, Pat Stearns. ``That’s the type of person she was.″

The five-member crew of the DC-9 was based at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Besides Kubeck and Stearns, the crew included first officer Richard Hazen, 52, of Mineola and flight attendants Mandy Leigh Summers, 22, of Irving and Lori Cushing of Austin.

Hazen, a retired Air Force pilot, had 6,146 total flight hours, Jordan said. He was survived by his wife and three children.

Mrs. Kubeck and her husband, America West Airlines pilot Roger Kubeck, lived in Phoenix, but she kept an apartment near her base to use for layovers, neighbors said.

``She was a fantastic individual,″ said neighbor Ken Peery.

Ms. Stearns, of Farmers Branch, was asked at the last minute by her best friend, another ValuJet flight attendant, to take her place aboard the flight, said Ms. Stearns’ sister, Jill.

Jill Stearns said her sister had hoped to make it back to Dallas in time for Mother’s Day.

Pat Stearns said his daughter originally wanted to become a police officer.

``We talked her out of it because we thought it would be too dangerous. We didn’t want her to get hurt _ and then this happens,″ he said, wiping away tears.

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