CLARENCE, N.Y. — Jennifer West looks back fondly, but with a measure of sadness at photos of her daughter Summer and her husband Ernie.
"We'll probably be doing it the rest of our lives, because I don't want another little girl to wish that their daddy was here for Christmas," she said.
Ernie West was one of 50 people killed when Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed in Clarence Center on February 12, 2009, leaving Jen without a partner, and then-2-year-old Summer without a dad.
"We're never going to let it go because what we lost was so tragic that we're doing it for their legacy so that nobody else has to lose a husband, a father, a mother, and this really will prevent crashes from happening again," she said.
Nearly nine years later, Jen and Summer are part of the 3407 family — a group of people who lost loves ones that night — fighting for changes in the airline industry in hopes of preventing others from feeling the same pain in the future.
They've been to Washington to push for new regulations, and one key piece of the Airline Safety Act is now taking effect. It's a federal database of pilots' records, aimed at helping airlines avoid making mistakes in hiring.
The database could've kept the captain of 3407 from flying that plane. Marvin Renslow had previously failed three check rides, but only told the regional operator of the airline about one before he was hired. His errors during the flight are believed to be a cause of the deadly crash.
“When the airlines go to hire, they actually look at all the records and see how many times they failed, and they have that choice not to hire them,” West said. “Our pilot should not have been in that cockpit."
The Western New York congressional delegation has pushed colleagues to pass measures for greater safety and training in the years since Flight 3407 went down.
"The airlines had said had they known what his background was and the capabilities or lack thereof, they would not have hired them," said Rep. Chris Collins. "We want to all know that when we're getting into an airplane, we're going to land where we're supposed to go and we're going to be safe. So it's a continued battle frankly with the airlines."
Summer West is now 11 years old. She's been front and center for the struggle, speaking in front of lawmakers as she keeps the legacy of her father alive.
"I think he would be so proud to see how she's grown and become such a good person and cares about others and wants to fight and wants to go to D.C. and speak," Jennifer West said. "She's been with this since the beginning. I think he's looking down and smiling with all the other 3407 family."
The new database is in its first test phase right now with more to come. The FAA is working on refining the rules, and eventually making more of the pilots’ records available to the airlines.