The 40-year-old former pitcher, an experienced pilot who died of blunt force trauma and drowning, had purchased the Icon A5, an amphibious, light-sport airplane, about a month before the crash and was known to do aerial stunts, the NTSB said. Only days before the crash, he had flown under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which spans lower Tampa Bay and has a 180-foot vertical clearance over the water, the report said. Days before the crash, he had tweeted images of the plane, writing that “flying the Icon A5 low over the water is like flying a fighter jet!”
The son of a commercial pilot, Halladay had made three low-flying maneuvers over the water, climbing steeply after each, according to the report.
“Multiple witnesses in the area stated that they saw the airplane flying very low, between 5 and 300 ft, over the water as the airplane maneuvered south close to the shoreline,” the report states. “Some witnesses reported that the airplane was making steep turns and high-pitch climbs up to about 500 ft and that the engine sounded normal. A witness provided an image of the airplane over the water. …
“A commercial fisherman stated that the airplane flew over his vessel at an altitude that was less than 300 ft. Another commercial fisherman, who was located about 900 ft north of the accident site, stated that he observed the airplane flying from the north ‘really close’ to houses.”
The plane was traveling at about 85 mph, according to witnesses.
“After entering a steep climb, the airplane descended on an easterly heading in a steep nose-down attitude; the airplane’s pitch attitude decreased as the airplane continued to descend,” the report stated. “The witness reported that the airplane impacted the water in a 45 degree, nose-down, wings-level attitude.”
Halladay was a two-time Cy Young Award winner who pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies and pitched the 20th perfect game in major league history in 2010. He retired in 2013 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019.
“He was a great coach, a nervous husband and father only because he so desperately wanted to be as great and successful at home as he was in baseball,” his wife, Brandy, said during the induction ceremony. “I think that Roy would want everyone to know that people are not perfect. We are all imperfect and flawed in one way or another."
Halladay had struggled with depression and addiction to painkillers, his father and sister told Sports Illustrated last year, and the NTSB report noted that he had twice undergone inpatient treatment between 2013 and early 2015 for substance abuse. He had been prescribed medications for chronic back pain, insomnia and depression.
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