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USF surgeon killed in plane crash during landing

Dr. Paul Sanberg admired David W. Cahill for his work in the College of Medicine and as a fellow pilot. Twelve years ago, Cahill hired Sanberg, and since then, they have always shared an interest in aircraft.

“As a flight instructor and fellow pilot, we came to USF both having a love for flying,” Sanberg said. “It was great to share that with him, along with (working with) him. We always found a center together.”

Sanberg, associate vice president of the Health Sciences Center, lost his flight companion Wednesday after Cahill’s twin-engine plane crashed while landing at the Memphis International Airport.

Cahill was 51.

“He was a good guy, and it is a real loss,” Sanberg said. “His death creates a real hole here.”

Cahill was nationally recognized for his skill in complex spinal cord surgery. And as a founder of the neurosurgery department at USF’s College of Medicine, he developed the residency program for medical students.

“He was a family man first, doctor and pilot second,” Sanberg said. “He loved flying for recreation and fun.”

Sanberg, also a professor in neurosurgery, said Cahill was having a smooth flight until landing. Three other Tampa men were on board the Beechcraft Baron. John Murphy was killed and Ed Brown and Chip Lowell were injured. The men were arriving in Memphis for a business meeting at Medtronic Sofamor Danek, a company that makes implants for spinal surgery.

The four men left Tampa’s Peter O. Knight Airport at about 6:30 a.m. The crash is currently under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

“David and I were pilots together; he had more than 3,000 hours and 14 years of experience,” Sanberg said.

The St. Petersburg Times reported that the 1981, six-seat airplane landed, then bounced and flipped into the grass.

NTSB investigators will consider several potential circumstances for which the plane crashed, including a sudden change in wind speed or direction, mechanical failure or pilot error.

Cahill, a Virginia native, began working at USF 20 years ago. He has been cited in the guidebook The Best Doctors in America and had been published extensively.

Cahill was an attending surgeon at Tampa General Hospital, the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute and the James A. Haley VA Medical Center.

Cahill is survived by his wife Sandra, a Tampa dentist, and their three children, ages 21, 20 and 15.