BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – With Congressman Brian Higgins resigning from Congress in the coming months, News 4 is hearing from Flight 3407 families who are thanking him for his efforts to improve aviation safety.

“Thank you Congressman Brian Higgins for helping our loved ones, lost on Flight 3407, have a legacy of aviation safety. Best wishes and Godspeed,” said Robin Tolsma, in a statement to News 4.

When Flight 3407 went down nearly 15 years ago in Clarence Center, Jennifer West’s husband Ernie was one of 50 victims killed in the crash. At the time, Jennifer’s daughter was just two years old. She had to raise her daughter Summer on her own.

“The Congress in Western New York, all the delegates, they have helped us from day one,” West said.

Families say that Higgins has been in their corner for years.

“And he made the mission to help us with aviation safety which created probably an unbreakable bond with all of the 3407 families. He’s going to be greatly missed,” West said.

There have been fierce debates between lawmakers and the airlines over what should be in the Federal Aviation Administration’s Reauthorization Bill on aviation safety. Jennifer West says Higgins has always sided with stronger rules for pilots and airlines.

“He was always there, he was always speaking out for us, he was going to all the events, the functions we had. Every time we went to Congress he was continuously by our side,” West said.

Many Flight 3407 families have made countless trips to Washington, D.C. to lobby lawmakers and give testimony. Higgins was often with them, wearing their traditional red, symbolizing love.

With Higgins resigning, West hopes for a seamless transition.

“There’s always going to be an airline that wants to cut corners, I just hope the next person that replaces him will care about it as much as we do,” West said.

As News 4 has reported, only Democratic State Senator Tim Kennedy has announced his candidacy to fill Higgins’ seat so far.

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Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.