‘I know he would be very proud of her’: West family reflects on 15 years since losing husband and father in Flight 3407 crash

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Many lives were changed forever on Feb. 12, 2009, when Flight 3407 crashed down in Clarence Center, killing 50 people.

Summer West was just a toddler when she lost her father, Ernie West, in the crash.

News 4’s Sarah Minkewicz and photojournalist Allison Staebell sat down with Summer and her mother Jennifer as they reflect on the last 15 years.

“Her father was very charismatic and loved life,” Jennifer said. “He walked into the room and everybody knew him.”

In the years following Ernie’s death, Jennifer made it her mission to provide Summer a life filled with a lot of love and support. Jennifer says that’s what her late husband would have wanted.

“Because I didn’t grow up with a father, my mom had to raise me all on her own and teach me things all by herself,” Summer said.

Summer grew up dancing, traveling and learning as much as she could. The most important lesson she learned from her mother was to never give up.

“She had this horrific thing happen to her at 2 years old and she didn’t let it hinder her,” Jennifer said. “I think that’s the mark of a strong person whether she knew it or not.”

Summer is now 17 years old. She loves cats, has a passion for art and will attend Daemen University in the Fall.

“It’s pretty crazy after 15 years, how far I’ve come,” Summer said.

The two say Ernie would be very proud.

“We don’t dwell on it, we just kinda keep moving along because he would want that,” Summer said. “He’d want us to be happy and thrive.”

“You don’t want to cry 15 years later, but when I talk about, I don’t want people to see sadness,” Jennifer said as she started tearing up thinking about what Ernie would say about his daughter if he was alive. “They’re tears of joy because it’s like, I’m so proud of her and I know he would be very proud of her.”

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Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter and Buffalo native who has been a part of the News 4 team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.

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