Dr. William Kirby, the mayor of Auburn, California, who stepped down from his official position last week following intense backlash from a controversial Facebook post criticizing Donald Trump, died on April 18 in a plane crash. He was 72.
Political consultant Jeff Raimundo shared Kirby’s family’s official statement on his Facebook page:
Our beloved father and grandfather, Dr. William Kirby, the Mayor of Auburn, has been tentatively identified as the person killed in the plane that crashed near the Auburn Airport this morning about 10:30 a.m. Another person in the plane survived the crash. Unfortunately, we do not yet have many other details or answers.
Our family is devastated by this tragic news. Bill devoted decades of enthusiastic and loving support to his family, his patients and the Auburn community he loved so much. We will miss him immensely but take comfort in knowing he died while flying – one of the other loves of his life.
Kirby, who was a practicing urologist for over 30 years, is survived by his daughter, Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, son-in-law Adam Gonzalez, and grandchildren Addison and Chloe Gonzalez. The family’s statement closed, “He loved his family, especially his two granddaughters. He poured his passion into life and the world is a better place because of him.”
Here’s what you need to know about Kirby:
1. Kirby’s Single-Engine Plane Crashed Around 10:30 a.m. on Saturday
According to records obtained by the Sacramento Bee, Kirby was a veteran pilot since at least 2009. The Placer County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to CBS 13 that another person was injured in the crash, which happened in a field near the 3800 block of Cedar Mist Lane, northwest of the Auburn Municipal Airport.
It remains unclear what caused the crash, but the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating. The plane’s other passenger has not yet been identified, and it hasn’t yet been confirmed who was piloting the single-engine plane, which crashed soon after it departed from the Auburn Municipal Airport, according to Gold Country Media.
2. Kirby Quit as Mayor After Comparing Trump Supporters to the KKK in a Controversial Facebook Post
In a since-deleted Facebook post, Kirby shared a meme that featured a picture of a hooded Klu Klux Klan member with the printed text, “Good News for Trump supporters is that most of them already have masks.” The joke was in reference to the newly enforced CDC guidelines for American citizens to wear masks in public places amid the pandemic spread of coronavirus.
Kirby posted this meme on his personal page with the caption, “True,” and the response that the Auburn mayor received online was split down the middle. While some users online heralded him for speaking out, others criticized Kirby for spreading hate speech.
Auburn’s mayor said to the Auburn Journal, “(Facebook) is not a city site. It’s a personal site. This has nothing to do with my job. I reposted it. I think [Trump] is racist, absolutely.”
3. Kirby Said Trump was ‘Absolutely’ Racist & Criticized His Handling of Coronavirus
Following the backlash, Kirby released the following statement on the matter: “Some people have viewed my posts, which were meant to be private and made out of frustration as over the top. Some were and I regret that.”
As for Trump’s handling of coronavirus, Kirby remained highly critical:
Like millions of healthcare workers and first responders across the country I go to work every day and put my life on the line against an enemy I can’t see without the proper protective gear or testing capabilities because of the criminal incompetence and disregard for science from this administration. The President has put us all at risk. I believe history will judge those who stood up against damaging policies and ideologies and those that did not.
After Kirby stepped down as mayor on April 13, he was succeeded by Councilman Daniel Berlant.
4. Kirby was a Pilot for ‘Flying Doctors’
In addition to dedicating 30 years of his life to his private practice of urology and serving as chairman of the Tumor Board at Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital, Kirby mixed one of his favorite pastimes, flying planes, with his medical career.
As a pilot with Flying Doctors of America, Kirby flew to rural villages to assist with medical care and help run free clinics.
5. His Daughter, Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, is a Member of the School Board Trustees
According to her official Facebook page, Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez has taught in public elementary schools in Rancho Cordova since 2004. She was named Teacher of the Year in the Folsom-Cordova Unified School District in 2011 after being elected Teacher of the Year by her peers at two of her schools in 2008 and 2010.
In addition to being a Trustee on the Washington Unified School Board in Sacramento, Sarah currently teaches gifted and high-achieving fifth-graders using innovative, inquiry-based approaches.