Thomas E. Burnett Jr., 38, an executive of a company that makes medical devices for people suffering from heart failure, was returning home after visiting a company subsidiary in New Jersey. He had originally scheduled a later flight but flew home earlier to be with his family.
The San Ramon resident was senior vice president and chief operating officer of Pleasanton-based Thoratec Corp. and was the father of three girls--a 3-year-old toddler and 5-year-old twins.
Thoratec President D. Keith Grossman said that Burnett was "an exceptionally bright man" with a love of competition, a keen wit and a "very strong sense of right and wrong."
He was an avid reader of history and had busts of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in his office.
Burnett, who frequently traveled for work, called his wife, Deena Burnett, on his cell phone four times during his final flight. He told her of the hijacking and that he other passengers were going to attempt to stop it.
"He didn't review his life story or say goodbye or tell me wonderful things," said Deena Burnett, who met her husband while she was working as a Delta Air Lines flight attendant. "He was assessing the problem and trying to solve it. He was coming home, you see."
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