Pune-born Dr. Sugata Das had taken the same flight path hundreds of times before Monday’s deadly crash.
Pune-born Indian American cardiologist Dr. Sugata Das, who was killed when his twin-engine Cessna C340 crashed into a Santee neighborhood in California Monday had a passion for flying.
Das, a Yuma Regional Medical Center cardiologist for more than 15 years, had taken the same flight path from Yuma to San Diego hundreds of times before Monday’s deadly crash, according to one of his colleagues.
“We’re still reeling through this,” Dr. Bharat Magu, the hospital’s chief medical officer, told NBC 7. “It’s almost a nightmare right now. It doesn’t seem real.”
A UPS worker on the ground was also killed after Das’ twin-engine plane crashed causing a fire that burned at least two homes, damaged five others and several vehicles, but responding firefighters were able to put out the blaze before it spread to other houses, according to multiple media reports.
Magu told NBC 7 that he’s in shock over the news of Das’ death because, he said, Das had taken the same flight path from Yuma International Airport to San Diego hundreds of times.
Das was “the last person you would expect to not know — in an emergency — what to do,” he said noting Das’ passion for flying was so strong it inspired Magu to get his pilot’s license too.
“He was almost a subject-matter expert for most of us in the pilot community here in Yuma,” Magu was quoted as saying. “He would fly from San Diego to Yuma back and forth for work.”
Das appeared to be a skilled aviator, earning a commercial pilot certificate in 2014 for instrument rating flight, meaning he was able to fly while relying solely on plane instruments, according to FAA records.
Das even had his own aviation company, to which the Cessna that crashed Monday and another plane are registered, NBC 7 said.
Das, the father of two boys, attended flight school at Fly San Diego. His testimonial on the flight school’s website said his experience with his instructor also “spurred the flying bug” in one of his sons.
In a statement Tuesday on behalf of Yuma Regional Medical Center, Magu said his “community has lost an exceptional physician, colleague and friend, a man who dedicated his life and career to caring for patients,”
Das was a “highly disciplined physician who thrived on each opportunity to improve care for heart patients,” he added.
Yuma Regional Medical Center told NBC 7 Das joined its medical staff in 2005, after completing his extensive training as an interventional cardiologist.
Born in a Bengali family, Das grew up in Pune. After completing medical school in India, he came to the United States to pursue his internal medicine residency at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan, going on to complete his cardiology fellowship at Providence Hospital, in Southfield, Michigan, and his interventional cardiology fellowship at the Arizona Heart Institute in Phoenix.
Das was known for his “strong work ethic and compassionate manner with patients and staff,” Magu was quoted as saying. “He was probably the most energetic physician in the medical staff. He had a very vivacious personality. It’s an enormous loss for the community, even in San Diego.”
“We’re all eager to know what exactly happened. It can happen to anyone … even very experienced people…. There are things which are beyond individual’s control.”
The National Transportation Safety Board said that, among the factors being studied in its investigation, are the plane’s maintenance and pilot’s medical records.
The investigation could take up to two years to complete, though a preliminary report on the investigators’ findings is expected to publish Oct. 26 — 15 days after the crash, NBC 7 said.