Families mark 5 years since Flight 3407 crash
Updated: Wednesday, February 12 2014, 06:09 AM EST
Clarence, N.Y. -- Five years to the day, family and friends of the 49 passengers killed in the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 plan to hold a candlelight vigil at the crash scene Wednesday.
Webster resident Ruthann Stilwell said it’s an annual gathering that opens the deep emotional scars she got that day.
“It goes back to the first year, the first day," she said. "I don’t know why, there is something about it.”
Her sister, Mary Stilwell, 44, was killed in the crash.
“It’s tough, actually this year it’s harder,” Stilwell said. “Five years seems to be a milestone.”
In the last five years, Stilwell, along with the friends and families of the other 48 passengers killed, strived to improve air travel safety.
The Flight 3407 crash was blamed on pilot error, as the plane stalled and dropped onto a house in Clarence, about five miles from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
Not only were the pilots inadequately trained on how to deal with a stall, reports also showed the pilots were flying on little sleep.
“They needed to feel comfortable with every maneuver, every stall for every airplane and they failed, they failed,” Stillwell said.
Since the crash, loved ones successfully lobbied for changes to pilot training requirements and flight and rest period rules to make sure pilots are ready to fly.
“I feel very proud and very honored to be a part of that, and I didn't really ever think I'd do anything like that," Stillwell said. "It wasn't in my personality at all.”
Stilwell said it was her sister who has given her the strength to take the fight to Washington.
“I just feel like she's looking down on me and saying, 'You go girl, you're doing a great job,'” Stilwell said. “I think my strength has definitely come from her because I know she's cheering me on.”
Lobbying for more regulations and safety measures, Stilwell said there is still work to be done.
“We're not going to go away," she said. "We're going to keep persevering. And if we have to go back to Washington 20 more times, then we will.
“We're doing this for the flying public, and we want everybody to be safe and not have anybody suffer like we've suffered.”