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Families To Mark 5 Years Since Flight 3407 Crash In Western New York

The wreckage of Continental Connection Flight 3407 is seen in Clarence, NY - Feb 16, 2009 - Photo: David Duprey-Pool/Getty Images

The wreckage of Continental Connection Flight 3407 is seen in Clarence, NY(credit: David Duprey-Pool/Getty Images)

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CLARENCE, N.Y(CBSNewYork/AP) – Family and friends of those killed when Continental Connection Flight 3407 fell from the sky onto a western New York home will gather Wednesday to mark the fifth anniversary of the crash.

The relatives of the passengers killed in the crash said they plan to thank those who have supported them over the years, and vow to continue their fight to make air travel safer at Wednesday’s memorial service.

“There have been a multitude of people that have helped us and we just want to take some time to thank them,” said Marilyn Kausner, whose 24-year-old daughter, Elly Kausner, was on her way home for a visit from law school when the plane experienced an aerodynamic stall and dropped onto a house five miles short of Buffalo Niagara International Airport on Feb. 12, 2009.

All 49 people aboard and a man in the house were killed.

The passengers’ families have spent the years following the crash lobbying for changes to improve the safety of regional carriers to that of major airlines.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Karen Eckert, who with her sister, Susan Bourque, have made more than 60 trips to Washington as part of a core group of activist relatives.

The groups’ efforts led to the most substantial pilot training requirements in two decades. One of the programs mandates that airlines provide flight simulator training for pilots on how to deal with a stall.

The group also successfully lobbied for changes in flight and rest period rules to prevent fatigue and has ensured that ticket sellers disclose the regional carrier operating a flight at the time of purchase.

Flight 3407 was operated out of Newark, N.J., for Continental by now-defunct regional carrier Colgan Air and by a pilot and first officer who, the families would learn, had been inadequately trained on how to deal with a stall and were flying on little rest.

Following the crash, the families established a private memorial at the site of the crash and are involved in plans for a public monument at the Clarence library.

There is also an annual 5K run and scholarships have been given in passengers’ names.

Continuing along another track over the last five years have been the dozens of wrongful death lawsuits filed by passenger families against Continental, Colgan and its parent company, Pinnacle Air.

As of the end of January, all but eight federal lawsuits and four brought in state Supreme Court, had been settled for undisclosed sums. Any remaining federal cases are scheduled to be tried at the end of May, with the state cases scheduled for trial in August.

Relatives committed to lobbying for improved airline safety continue to strive for a centralized database of pilot records, a crew mentoring program and onboard safety management systems to analyze issues in flight.

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