Volume 96, Issue 7
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

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Tragedy befalls professor: Western academic dies in plane crash

Gazette File Photo

REMEMBERING SANDY KIRKLEY. The Western community lost a cherished member this past Sunday when Dr. Sandy Kirkley passed away in a plane crash.

By Chris Webden
Gazette Staff


It is a sad time in the Western community, as staff and students mourn the loss of Dr. Sandy Kirkley.

Kirkley, a professor and alumnus of Western, and her husband Michael, died on Sunday when the plane they were travelling in crashed east of Aeroflex Andover Airport in New Jersey. The Kirkley's two sons, aged five and eight, survived the crash and are currently being treated for burns and other injuries at Morristown Memorial Hospital in New Jersey.

Their plane, the Piper Saratoga, crashed en route to the London Airport after leaving Teterboro Airport, New Jersey, at about 6:15 p.m. Sunday night. Eighty kilometres into the trip, the pilot reported engine troubles, at which point he was instructed to land in Andover. The plane disappeared from radar five kilometres from the airport, crashing near a group of houses.

Kirkley leaves behind a legacy as a professor and researcher at Western. As an orthopedic surgeon, Kirkley was the associate professor of surgery at Western's medical school, and was cross-appointed to the department of epidemiology and biostatistics.

"The loss of Dr. Kirkley is immense, not only, of course, for her family and for her many friends and colleagues, but also for the discipline of orthopedic surgery for which she was such a marvelous ambassador, teacher and researcher," said Carol Herbert, dean of the faculty of medicine and dentistry.

"Dr. Kirkley was a gifted professional and true role model," Herbert expressed.

Kirkley was influenced to pursue a career in orthopedic medicine by Dr. Peter Fowler, medical director at Western's Fowler Kennedy Sport Medical Clinic, who treated her for shoulder problems experienced while swimming for the varsity team. Kirkley and Fowler later became colleagues working together to treat medical injuries at FKSMC.

"We are just devastated by the loss of Dr. Kirkley – she was such an important, energetic and enthusiastic part of this clinic," Fowler said. He added Kirkley was a rising star both nationally and internationally for her research in the field of orthopedics.

Kirkley's husband Michael also leaves behind a legacy at Western. As an undergraduate student here, Michael played for the Western Mustangs football team from 1978 to 1981. In 1981, he was an Ontario University Athletics All-Star running back.

Later Michael went on to be drafted by the Toronto Argonauts and finished his professional football career as a Saskatchewan Roughrider. Michael was currently working in pharmaceutical marketing.

"Dr. Kirkley and her husband Michael were not only proud graduates of our university, but outstanding citizens of our county," said Western president Paul Davenport. "They will be deeply missed."

–with files from Associated Press

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2002 THE GAZETTE