Drugs and Stunts Cited in Plane Crash That Killed Roy Halladay

Drugs and Stunts Cited in Plane Crash That Killed Roy Halladay

Roy Halladay, a Hall of Fame pitcher, had a dangerous mix of amphetamine, morphine and other prescription drugs in his system and was doing acrobatics in his amphibious sport plane when it plunged into the Gulf of Mexico off Clearwater, Fla., killing him on Nov. 7, 2017, the National Transportation Safety Board said on Wednesday.

A 13-page report said Mr. Halladay had 10 times the generally recommended level of amphetamine in his system, as well as an antidepressant, a muscle relaxant, a sleep aid and morphine, an opioid pain medication, when he lost control of his plane and crashed nose-first into the water.

Mr. Halladay, who was 40 and had bought the plane a month earlier, died of blunt force trauma and drowning, the report said. An avid pilot, he had been known to enjoy stunt maneuvers in the airplane, an Icon A5, the report said.

Just days before his crash, he had flown under the Skyway Bridge, which has a 180-foot vertical clearance over the water, the report said. A few days later, the report notes, he wrote on Twitter that “flying the Icon A5 low over the water is like flying a fighter jet!”

The plane, a two-seater with foldable wings and a parachute, is marketed to pilots seeking weekend adventures and promises to “bring the exhilaration of flight to life like never before.”

During the last two and a half minutes of Mr. Halladay’s final flight, the report said, he engaged in three low-flying maneuvers, swooping over the water and then climbing at a high level of attack.

Multiple witnesses in the area said they saw the plane flying as low as 5 feet over the water as it flew close to the shoreline. Some witnesses reported that the airplane was making steep turns and high-pitched climbs up to about 500 feet, the report said.

One commercial fisherman said that the airplane flew over his boat at less than 300 feet, and another reported that it was flying “really close” to houses.

During its final move, Mr. Halladay’s plane entered a steep climb and then descended nose-down before crashing into the water at a 45-degree angle. At the time, the plane was flying at about 85 miles an hour, the report said.

A final report on the crash will be issued in several weeks and is expected to include a formal determination of the cause and a more detailed analysis, the N.T.S.B. said.

Mr. Halladay, an eight-time All-Star, had pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies and won two Cy Young awards before announcing his retirement in 2013. In 2010 he pitched a perfect game, the 20th in major league history.

After his death, he was elected to the Hall of Fame, an honor that was last given posthumously to Roberto Clemente, the Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder who died in 1972, also in a plane crash, when he was 38.

Clemente died on a humanitarian mission, attempting to delivering relief supplies from Puerto Rico to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua.

Some of the details of Mr. Halladay’s drug use were previously known. A 2019 article in Sports Illustrated, reported with cooperation from Halladay’s father and a sister, discussed the pitcher’s apparent struggle with depression and addiction to painkillers.

The N.T.S.B. report on Wednesday said that Mr. Halladay’s medical records showed that he had a history of substance use that required inpatient treatment twice between 2013 and early 2015. It said that he had received a diagnosis of chronic back pain, insomnia and depression, which were treated with various prescription medications.

In a speech she gave in 2019, when Mr. Halladay was honored at the Baseball of Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., his widow, Brandy Halladay, said he would have been the first to acknowledge human frailty.

“I think that Roy would want everyone to know that people are not perfect,” she said. “We are all imperfect and flawed in one way or another. We all struggle. But with hard work, humility and dedication, imperfect people can still have perfect moments.”




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