Baseball / MLB

Former pitcher Roy Halladay flew airplane low before crash, witnesses say

AP

Roy Halladay was flying his tiny sport plane low over the Gulf of Mexico shortly before it slammed into the water and killed the retired star pitcher, witnesses told federal investigators.

National Transportation Safety Board Investigator Noreen Price said Wednesday that Halladay’s ICON A5 experienced a “high-energy impact” with the water. She said both flight data recorders were recovered and the plane did not have a voice recorder.

She said Halladay had been a licensed pilot since 2013 and logged about 700 hours of flight time before Tuesday’s crash near Tampa. She said a preliminary report on the cause likely will be issued in seven to 10 days, but the full investigation could take up to two years.

Price said it was too early to say whether Halladay’s crash was related to two earlier crashes this year of A5s, one of them that killed both the plane’s chief designer and test pilot

“Every accident is different. They are very complex. So as we move forward in the factual finding phase, if we see anything that we believe might connect it to previous accidents, we will certainly look at that. And if we see anything that we think is unsafe, we will make recommendation immediately,” Price said during a news conference in New Port Richey, Florida.

The 40-year-old former Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher had been the proud owner for less than a month of his ICON A5, and was among the first to fly the model. In one of many enthusiastic tweets about the plane, Halladay said it felt “like flying a fighter jet.”

Rolled out in 2014, the A5 is an amphibious aircraft meant to be treated like an ATV, a piece of weekend recreational gear with folding wings that can easily be towed on a trailer to a lake where it can take off from the water.

The man who led the plane’s design, 55-year-old John Murray Karkow, died while flying an A5 over California’s Lake Berryessa on May 8, a crash the NTSB attributed to pilot error.

In other tweets, Halladay said he had dreamed about owning one of the planes. He said in video on the company’s website that he had to talk his wife into letting him get one.

The son of a corporate pilot, Halladay had been forbidden to take up aviation until the two-time Cy Young Award winner retired from baseball after the 2013 season.