TechSelect Member Killed in Comair Plane Crash

Homer Combs enjoyed attending Tech Data's TechSelect conference in Chicago last week, but he was also looking forward to the vacation he and his wife had planned for this week, said some of those who attended the show.

Combs and his wife Diane were killed in the crash of Comair Flight 5191 heading from Lexington, Ky., to Atlanta last Sunday. He was a senior vice president at Systems Design Group, a Lexington-based solution provider. His wife also worked at the company and often traveled with him on business, but she did not attend last week's show.

Last Friday night at TechSelect, Combs attended a customer dinner cosponsored by Sony Electronics and N-able Technologies, with several other resellers. He flew home to Lexington the next day.

"It's very tragic. He was a very genuine man. He had a very big heart. We didn't really discuss business. He was looking forward to his vacation with his wife," said Elizabeth Van Dyke, key account executive representing VAIO for Sony Electronics.

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During the dinner, Van Dyke sat at the same table as Combs. "He said he had one more business meeting, that it was a great opportunity to be [in Chicago] to learn things, but he was really looking forward to his vacation," she said.

Combs and his wife were two of 49 people killed when the plane crashed shortly after taking off from Runway 26 at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington. Investigators say the plane's pilot mistakenly took off from the shorter of the airport's two runways.

Gary Black, president of RGB Network Services, a Sturgis, Mich.-based solution provider and TechSelect member, also sat with Combs last Friday night at dinner.

"I had a great time talking to him, asking how his business was going, talking about managed services. I have his business card and he was one I was going to call to get more in depth with what they were doing," Black said. "Homer will be dearly missed. This just saddens me extensively."

Systems Design Group has been an N-able customer for about three years and Combs was a terrific partner, said Mike Cullen, vice president of sales at Ottawa-based N-able.

"He was one of my favorite guys to take out for dinner. He's a really nice man," said Cullen, who was also at the dinner last Friday night. "We had a nice chat. He was talking about for the first time in his career that he was going to take six weeks of [vacation]. He had it all planned out. He was going deer hunting, a lot of stuff. He talked about how much he loved his wife."

Cullen, as well as other members of the TechSelect community, heard the news of Combs' death on Monday.

"He was a significant player in the managed services industry. An early adopter who was doing very well. He will be missed by the community and the industry as well," Cullen said.

Tech Data executives declined to comment, but the distributor sent an e-mail to TechSelect partners from Ken Lamneck, president of the Americas, that said, "Condolences have been sent to the family on behalf of the TechSelect community, and we will continue to stay in contact with them to provide support however possible. We are all saddened by the loss and know many of you considered Homer a trusted community member and friend."

TechSelect members said the couple had one college-age daughter. Executives at Systems Design Group could not be reached for comment. On its Web site, the company offered the following statement: "This is a horrific tragedy for everyone. Homer, an owner/partner of SDG, and Diane both worked at SDG for many years. We are honoring the family's privacy request and are not at liberty to release any additional information regarding this situation. We ask everyone to please honor the family's privacy as well during this time of sadness."

Condolences may be sent to [email protected]. The Web site also said that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations could be directed to the First Baptist Church of Whitesburg, Ky., or the Morris K. Udall Parkinson's Disease Research Center of Excellence in Lexington.