Roy Halladay #32 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on May 27, 2009, in Baltimore. (Getty Images)
Hall of Fame MLB pitcher Roy Halladay was doing acrobatics in his plane and had a dangerous mix of drugs in his system when the aircraft crashed into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida in 2017, killing him, the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday.
The 40-year-old former Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies ace, who won more than 200 games and notched more than 2,000 strikeouts in a 16-year big-league career, had 10 times the recommended level of amphetamine, as well as morphine, a muscle relaxer, an opioid pain medication, and antidepressants in his bloodstream at the time of the crash, officials said.
Halladay performed high-pitch climbs and steep turns with the drugs in his system, sometimes within 5 feet of the water, witnesses said, as the maneuvers put loads of nearly two-times gravity on the Icon A5 plane he rented a month earlier, according to the report.
“It happened. I can’t take it back for him,” Halladay’s younger sister, Heather, told ESPN. “I know what type of person my brother was and that’s all that really matters to me. I do miss him like crazy and that’s what this all brings up.”
A commercial fisherman located 900 feet north of the accident scene said it had flown “really close” to houses. Others said the airplane was making steep turns and high-pitch climbs up to about 500 feet, while adding that the engine sounded normal.
During the last 2-1/2 minutes of the flight, Halladay conducted three maneuvers with high angles of attack, the report added.
During his final move, the speed of his propeller-driven plane fell to about 85 miles per hour as he entered a steep climb. It eventually went into a nosedive and smashed into the water at a 45-degree angle near Clearwater, Fla., on Nov. 7, according to the report. He died of blunt force trauma and drowning, it said.
Less than two weeks before his fatal crash, Halladay had flown the plane under Tampa Bay’s Skyway Bridge, which had a 180-foot vertical clearance over the water, the report added, citing recovered GPS data.
Five days later he wrote on Twitter, “I keep telling my dad flying the Icon A5 low over the water is like flying a fighter jet! His response….. I am flying a fighter jet!!”
Icon issued guidance to its owners two weeks before Halladay’s accident saying that while low-altitude flying “can be one of the most rewarding and exciting types of flying,” it “comes with an inherent set of additional risks that require additional considerations.”
Halladay had about 700 hours of flight time after getting his pilot’s license in 2013, a previous report said, including 51 hours in Icon A5s with 14 in the plane that crashed.
The report on Wednesday does not give a final reason for the crash. That’s expected to be issued soon.
Halladay won 203 games and two Cy Young awards before retiring in 2013. He was inducted posthumously into the Baseball Hall of Fame last July.
Halladay broke into the majors with the Blue Jays in 1998, winning one Cy Young Award and being selected to six All-Star games during his tenure with the team.
He joined the Phillies after the 2009 season and was selected to two All-Star games, winning his second Cy Young Award, in 2010. That year he also pitched a perfect game, the 20th in major league history.
His no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds in the 2010 National League Division Series was only the second no-hitter ever pitched in the MLB postseason, following only New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series.
During his time in the majors, Halladay was known as “Doc,” a reference to the gunslinger Doc Holliday.