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Plane crash victims' family pushes for safety

January 29, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
In January 2000, Alaska Airlines Flight 261 broke apart in mid-air and 88 people were killed. On Sunday, families will gather in Port Hueneme to remember their lost loved ones. One couple is determined to draw good from disaster.January 31, 2000: A search for survivors. Instead, only debris from Alaska Air Flight 261.

"Our loss was our son and daughter-in-law," said Jim Busche.

"We asked in the beginning: Why us? You know, that was a big question we had," said Marianne Busche.

The story of Jim and Marianne Busche is how they found their answer and what it means to future passengers.

It begins with a loss as deep as the ocean itself.

"Mother's Day is probably my hardest holiday, and it's because that's a missing piece in the whole thing," said Marianne.

Harder still are the findings by federal investigators: A lapse in maintenance on the critical rear stabilizer. Mechanics failed to do their job.

"Sometimes you need to get rid of those people or sometimes they just need proper training," said Jim.

The Busches pushed. With the aid of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official, safety measures came along with many assurances. But the Busches wanted more.

A change in the law that would allow a company to say we're sorry without opening itself up to more lawsuits. They also assembled a training manual, a folio illustrating their personal loss. It's aimed to drive a point home to executives down to mechanics.

"So that future people that are flying on that airline wouldn't have to go through the grief that we went through," said Jim.

Alaska Airlines Chief Executive Officer William Ayer released a statement:

"Since the accident, Alaska Airlines has taken multiple steps contributing to state-of-the-art safety programs, practices and oversight. The safety of our passengers and employees is at the forefront of everything we do, and nothing is more important."

"We really believe that god has brought a lot of change and positive things out of allowing this accident to happen," said Marianne.

It includes their ministry at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Palm Springs, where they are peacemaker mediators. Their choice is to help others and heal.

Even at the crash site, they find a divine comfort. They say Ryan and Abigail Busche had always loved the water.

"It's like, wow, they went to be with the lord in a beautiful place," said Marianne. "It blesses us to see where it was."