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April 15, 2020

NTSB report: Roy Halladay was doing dangerous stunts, had several drugs in system at time of fatal crash

On Wednesday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its initial findings in the investigation into Roy Halladay's death back in November of 2017, when his small plane crashed into the waters of Tampa Bay. 

According to the report, Halladay, 40, not only had several drugs in his system, but was flying dangerously and performing stunts in the moments leading up to his death. Here's more from ESPN:

Halladay had amphetamine levels about 10 times therapeutic levels in his blood along with a high level of morphine and an anti-depressant that can impair judgement as he performed high-pitch climbs and steep turns, sometimes within 5 feet of the water, the report says about the Nov. 7, 2017, crash.

The maneuvers put loads of nearly two-times gravity on the plane, an Icon A5 -- a light sport two-seat amphibious that Halladay had purchased a month earlier. On the last maneuver, Halladay entered a steep climb and his speed fell to about 85 miles per hour. The propeller-driven plane went into a nosedive and smashed into the water.

The report says Halladay, 40, died of blunt force trauma and drowning.  []

Halladay crashed in an area known as Sand Bay in water that was just 3-4 feet deep. Several witnesses also saw Halladay performing dangerous maneuvers in the minutes before he crashed.

While the report does not give a final reason for the crash (mechanical or otherwise), what was released by the NTSB on Wednesday is just a preliminary factual report, absent of full analysis, and typically comes out a few weeks before the final report, according to ESPN. 

The NTSB also reported, according to GPS data they've obtained, that just two weeks before Halladay's fatal crash, the Hall of Famer flew his Icon A5 under Tampa's Skyway Bridge, which has a clearance of just 180 feet, while traveling from a local airport to his home. Halladay reportedly never received any low altitude training but knew the dangers. 

After a crash in May of 2017 that killed the plane's main designer, Icon released new guidelines about low-level flying and warned owners of the risks and differences between that and high-altitude flight just two weeks before Halladay's death. Although Halladay had 700 hours of total solo flight experience, he had only 14.5 hours of experience in his new Icon A5 at the time of his death (and 51 total hours in any Icon A5). 

On top of the lack of experience mixed with dangerous stunts and low-altitude flying, Halladay also reportedly had four different drugs in his system: Zolpidem (commonly known as Ambien), morphine (from the opioid painkiller Hydromorphone), anti-depressant Flouxetine (Prozac), and a muscle relaxant called Baclofen. "The NTSB report notes Zolpidem, an amphetamine, could have been metabolized from a medication to treat attention deficit disorder, such as Adderall," according to ESPN.

The report also points out that most of these drugs came with warnings about operating heavy machinery. 

Beyond this, the report also shed some light on Halladay's past medical history, some of which had previously been detailed in a Sports Illustrated story. Here's more from ESPN:

"During a visit in September 2015, the pilot's primary care physician notes a history of substance abuse with inpatient rehab treatment in 2013 and another from January-March in 2015. At the time, the pilot had been abusing opioids and benzodiazepines," the NTSB report stated.

Halladay was noted to have chronic back pain, according to the report. He cited injuries to his back and shoulder when he retired from baseball in December 2013.

In 2015, according to the NTSB report, Halladay "told the physician he was being treated for depression and the records document he was taking Adderall and Prozac."  []

The final report from the NTSB is expected to be released in the coming weeks. 

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