CLARENCE, NY (WKBW) — 12 years ago a plane crashed into a home on Long Street in Clarence Center. 49 people on board were killed, including a pregnant woman and one man in the house.
“It’s 12 years since the crash and there's still one unfinished piece of business,” declared Karen Eckert.
Eckert of Amherst lost her sister Beverly when Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed.
Karen Eckert & brother honor their sister Beverly who was among 51 people killed in the crash of #Flight3407 12 years ago in Clarence. This crypt @ForestLawnCem is in their honor. Our story tonight at 5 & 6 @WKBW. pic.twitter.com/t01e76JWeT— eileen buckley (@eileenwkbw) February 12, 2021
Eckert and her brother visited a crypt at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo Friday morning were some of the remains of the victims are buried.
“I feel like I know each one of them. I read every one of their names. I know who their families are — most of them. The sense of loss is huge — just huge,” Eckert reflected.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined pilot error was to blame for the deadly crash.
But Eckert and other family members turned their tragedy into a fight for air safety to strengthen FAA regulations and keep air travelers safe.
In 2010 they were successful in getting a new law passed. It included requiring all commercial pilots to have at least 1,500 hours of in-flight experience before being hired.
However, Eckert says their fight isn't over yet, as the 3407 families call on the new administration to approve the final piece of the law — a pilot database.
“So that another pilot isn't hired and they company doesn't know that they're unable to hide past failures — like the pilot of Flight 3407 did,” Eckert explained.
“They want for the flying public what their loved ones — who they lost — were denied,” stated Congressman Brian Higgins.
Congressman Higgins, a democrat, issued a bipartisan statement with republican Congressman Chris Jacobs and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand calling on the new transportation secretary to approve this final airline safety measure.
“Anytime line that you see it happening?” Buckley asked.
“As far I’m concerned there's no good reason why this could not put in place within 60 to 90-days — there's no good reason,” replied Higgins.
“I think they should just put themselves in the position — do they want their loved ones in a plane with a pilot that is in experienced and shouldn't be piloting it,” remarked Jennifer West of Clarence.
West lost her husband Ernie. Her daughter, Summer, was only two years old at the time.
West says she believes powerful lobbying from the airline industry prevented the final safety measure from being approved.
“Like I always said — money can't tuck my daughter in bed at night,” West noted.
West, Higgins and Eckert all say it's a “no brainier” to require a pilot database with other safety measures that are already working.
“There hasn't been a fatal crash on a U.S. airline in 12 years,” Eckert said.
“It just makes good sense to provide the commercial airlines with a pilot records database to ensure that the people they are hiring have a good record as it relates to their flying history,” Higgins stated.
“Just think about it — if you’re on a plane with someone who’s not experienced,” West responded.
12 years later, at the former crash site on Long Street, a memorial stands in honor of the souls who died on Flight 3407.
“We treasure life because we know what it means when you lose of life,” Eckert said.
“We did it so that their legacy was that they could give their life to save lives,” replied West.