The NTSB has released its factual report on the crash of an Icon A5 Light Sport Aircraft in 2017 that claimed the life of the sole occupant, former baseball player Roy Halladay. A combination of blunt force trauma and drowning were the causes of death, according to the medical examiner cited in the report. In several other regards, the report is a disturbing one.
When there’s a fatal crash involving someone famous, Buddy Holly to Kobe Bryant, it’s big news. But it’s not often that the famous person killed in a wreck was the one flying the plane. Singer-songwriter John Denver is one of those exceptions. And so is Roy Halladay, who died in the crash of his Icon A5 amphibious light sport plane in 2017. Halladay was a former all-star pitcher who played Major League Baseball for the Philadelphia Phillies and the Toronto Blue Jays. He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, elected in 2019 with 85 percent of the vote. Halladay was an eight-time All-Star and a two-time Cy Young Award winner who pitched a regular-season perfect game and a no-hitter in the playoffs.
The NTSB report contains several facts that are shocking to the general public, and for once, they’re also pretty shocking to most pilots, who are not generally given to over-the-top mainstream news coverage of crashes.
In this case, the details paint a picture of a pilot whose flying on that day was far outside the mainstream of acceptable behavior. In some instances, it was flying that falls outside of what’s allowed by federal regulations.
Perhaps the most disturbing are the toxicology findings. Halladay, according to the factual report, had high levels of amphetamines, morphine, an anti-depressant that is not allowed by the FAA, along with other drugs. Halladay, who played 15 seasons in the big leagues, suffered numerous injuries while pitching, which is not at all uncommon. Halladay’s use of drugs were noted as well, including the fact that he had twice been to rehabilitation programs for his drug use, described by the report, as “abuse.”
The report also notes, but draws no conclusions, that Halladay’s flying included very steep turns, climbs and higher G maneuvers—though none that were over the rated G loadings of the A5, according to the NTSB. The report includes a photograph (above) taken by a witness that shows Halladay’s A5 in what appears to be of Halladay’s plane in a steep turn.
The altitude at which the former pitcher was flying was also highlighted in the report, which suggests that Halladay violated minimum safe altitude regulations, including flying under the Tampa Skyway Bridge. Witnesses reported that Halladay’s flying just prior to the crash went as low as five feet over the water and came very close while directly over the tops of houses along the shoreline.
The factual report cited here does not contain the NTSB’s statement of probable cause or its discussion of those circumstances. That final NTSB report is likely to be published in the coming weeks.