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Hillsborough Aviation board chair Steve Burton’s 2013 death may have been result of malpractice

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

One of Tampa’s most prominent leaders died nearly two years ago. Former Hillsborough Aviation Authority chair Steve Burton died following a heart transplant at Tampa General Hospital.

Burton’s death was originally reported as a transplant-related complication. According to reports following his death on April 21, 2013, Burton’s new heart functioned perfectly for four hours, but suddenly failed after that. He was never brought out of sedation.

Earlier this month, Burton’s heirs filed a request with the Hillsborough County Courts for an additional nine months to investigate a possible malpractice suit.

“A preliminary investigation into the cause of death has raised questions concerning the suitability of the donor heart for transplantation,” the complaint reads.

In addition to extending the investigation, Burton’s heirs are also seeking medical records but Tampa General appears to be refusing to provide them. The family is asking the courts to issue an order requiring the hospital to turn them over.

It’s not clear exactly who would be named in the lawsuit. The filings say the heart was procured by Burton’s cardiac surgeons. His estate has several ongoing requests for payment from Tampa General and Infectious Disease Associates of Tampa Bay.

Burton is survived by two children, Tyler and Zachary Burton, and a fiancee. Both of his children are young adults. The personal representative on Burton’s estate is a colleague from the Broad and Cassel law firm, Mark Barber.

Burton’s most notable accomplishments included his work with the Hillsborough Aviation Authority. After being appointed to the agency by former Gov. Charlie Crist, Burton applied heavy pressure to then CEO of Tampa International Airport Louis Miller. His chief complaint was that Miller lacked commitment to attracting more international flights.

Miller later resigned, paving the way for new leadership under Joe Lopano. The two worked together closely to begin implementing a $2.5 billion master plan. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Burton continued working on airport matters even as he lay in a hospital bed just weeks before his death awaiting a new heart.

Burton also served on boards of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the USF board of trustees and Stetson University College of Law.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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