By Rick Sallinger

FRISCO, Colo. (CBS4)– It’s been three years since a Flight for Life helicopter went down in a fiery crash, killing one and seriously injuring two others.

(credit: Lake Dillon Fire)

The passage of a federal bill to prevent such fires after crashes was celebrated in Summit County.

Karen Mahany’s husband, the pilot, was killed. Patrick Mahany had flown for Flight for Life for 27 years.

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She told those gathered, “living through what we he have lived through one of greatest challenges in my life.”

Karen Mahany (credit: CBS)

In July 2015, Patrick died when the Airbus Flight for Life helicopter he was piloting crashed seconds after takeoff in Summit County. That tragic day was remembered by those who gathered on Friday.

Patrick Mahany (credit: CBS)

The National Transportation Safety Board investigated with disturbing findings.

Karen Mahany remembers what she was told by investigators, “You know Mrs. Mahany this was a survivable crash if the safety equipment had been on board.”

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The cause was determined to be from hydraulic issues, but the helicopter might not have burst into flames after impact if it had been equipped with what’s called a crash resistant safety system.

Karen Mahany called it a loophole that did not require it, “That gave manufacturers an out that they didn’t have to equip with crash resistant fuel tanks.”

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She said 1,300 people before her husband had died previously and made it her cause to get that changed.

Flight nurse Dave Repsher was one of two on board severely injured in the crash. It has been a long difficult recovery.

Dave Repsher (credit: CBS)

“We were in the hospital fighting for our lives. Karen was trying to turn it into something positive,” he said.

That involved getting Colorado senators and congressional representatives to push for federal legislation.

Dave Repsher and Matt Martinez (credit: CBS)

“Knowing how daunting it is to go out to Washington and stare down that can be an intimidating situation,” said Repsher.

Now all new helicopters must be equipped with the tanks designed to prevent fires after crashes.

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Rep. Jared Polis, running for governor, and Sen. Michael Bennet were on hand. A letter from Rep. Ed Perlmutter was read praising the new provision in the law they helped pass.

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.