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Shehbaz Butt: Doctor who once helped injured guides on Mount Everest dies in small plane crash near Toronto

Shehbaz Butt.

Quest for Seven Summits

Shehbaz Butt, a Toronto-area doctor who was known for his mountain climbing attempts on the world’s highest peaks, has died in a plane crash.

The 46-year-old father of four, who worked as an anesthesiologist, was flying a small plane that went down near Buttonville Municipal Airport on Thursday evening.

A friend, Joe Raftis, confirmed that Dr. Butt was the plane’s pilot. “He was quite the adventurer … a genuinely nice person. I’m just lucky to have met him,” Mr. Raftis said.

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Dr. Butt’s death was also announced in a staff e-mail at his workplace, Markham Stouffville Hospital.

“It is tragic news to hear of this loss of a long-standing MSH physician. We know he will be sorely missed,” the e-mail said.

For the past eight years, Dr. Butt had attempted to reach the summits of the highest mountains on all seven continents. His bid to climb Mount Everest in April of 2014 coincided with an avalanche that killed 16 Sherpas. Calling off the climb, he instead helped treat the injured guides.

Mr. Raftis said that Dr. Butt had been taking piloting lessons and had his own hangar and runway at his suburban home.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has sent a team of investigators to the scene.

Alexandre Fournier, a TSB spokesman, said that a small plane had just left a Buttonville runway Thursday evening when the pilot radioed that he had problems and did a right turn back toward the airport. The nose of the plane dropped and it crashed southwest of the airport.

The aircraft, a 1980 Bellanca 8KCAB, a two-seat single-engine plane commonly known as a Super Decathlon, belonged to Dr. Butt, according to Transport Canada records.

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Dr. Butt, who spoke English, Punjabi and Urdu, was born in Pakistan.

He was one of four children raised by a single mother, Mr. Raftis said, adding that they were all encouraged in their studies, with the other siblings becoming a dentist, a pharmacist and a computer scientist.

After the family moved to Canada, he attended high school in east-end Toronto, graduated from the University of Ottawa in 1997, then did post-graduate training in anesthesiology at the University of Toronto. A year after completing his residency, he joined Markham Stouffville Hospital in 2003.

Even when he was still in medical school, he was an outdoors person. He told Mr. Raftis that he would go on camping trips and study in the evening with his laptop in his tent.

According to a blog for his Everest expedition, Dr. Butt became interested in mountain climbing after speaking with a cancer patient who had returned from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

He decided to climb the highest peak of each continent. In 2010, he reached the summit of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The following year, he was in Russia, climbing Mount Elbrus, followed by Indonesia’s Mount Puncak Jaya in 2012 and Mount Denali in Alaska in 2013.

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He was not a reckless thrill seeker. In 2011, Dr. Butt was three quarters of the way up Mount Aconcagua in the Andes but turned back because of high winds. He returned in 2016 and reached the summit with his wife, Ramona, and Mr. Raftis.

The two peaks he did not reach were Everest and Mount Vinson Massif in Antarctica.

Dr. Butt and Mr. Raftis, the owner of the Hiker’s Haven sports store in Oakville, had met through their mutual love for the outdoors.

When they attempted their Everest climb in 2014, Dr. Butt also used the trip to raise money for his hospital.

They were at the southern base camp, getting acclimated to the high altitude when, around 6:50 a.m. they heard the sound of an avalanche.

Rescue helicopters began flying back dead and injured Sherpas. Dr. Butt and six other climbers who were also physicians helped look after the wounded so they could be airlifted to a Kathmandu hospital.

He helped stabilize a man left unconscious by head trauma. He treated a guide for a broken leg and another with broken ribs and kidney injuries.

“This has been a very tragic and moving experience … I feel like I left a little of myself there,” he told The Globe and Mail afterward.

Mr. Raftis said Dr. Butt had talked about returning to Everest next year.

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