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NTSB releases findings on Roy Halladay’s fatal plane crash


Roy Halladay spent the final four seasons of his career with the Phillies. (Icon SportsWire)

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Nearly 30 months after his tragic death, the National Transportation Safety Board released their findings on what caused the plane crash that killed Philadelphia Phillies icon Roy Halladay.

The report concludes that Halladay was killed on Nov. 7, 2017 by “blunt trauma” after crashing his Icon Aircraft A5. Additionally, the report notes that “drowning was a contributory condition.”

NTSB’s report includes toxicology reports conducted after Halladay’s passing. It notes that 0.088 μg/ml (micrograms per milliliter) of the sleep-aid Zolpidem were found in Halladay’s system.

2.2 μg/ml of the stimulant Amphetamine registered as well. The report says that “generally, levels above 0.2 μg/ml indicate amphetamine misuse to maximize the drug’s psychoactive effects.”

0.192 μg/ml of Morphine came up in Halladay’s system, with the report stating the following: “Ranges for therapeutic levels are typically determined by giving novice users one or two doses and measuring their blood levels; such ranges are 0.010 to 0.100 μg/ml. With regular opioid use, brain physiology changes, leading to tolerance for both the desired analgesic and sedative effects and resulting in increased dosing. Chronic users may need the drug to feel and act “normally”; thus, a chronic user may appear to function normally at levels that could be toxic or even fatal to a first-time user.”

Various levels of the drugs Fluoxetine, norfluoxetine, Baclofen, Hydromorphone and Ibuprofen came up in Halladay’s system as well.

“He had a drug combination similar to a speedball,” forensic pathologist Burr Hartman told USA Today of the crash in January of 2018. “He was impaired by these drugs. It was definitely not safe for him to fly an airplane.”

TMZ Sports reported Wednesday that investigators said that Halladay’s father, Roy II, told them that he was “concerned that Roy was abusing prescription medications, and that may have played a role in the accident.”

The NTSB report says that while they were not able to obtain Halladay’s personal medical records for 2016 and 2017, the former Phillie had “a history of substance abuse requiring inpatient rehabilitation twice between 2013 and early 2015 and diagnoses of chronic back pain, insomnia and depression, which were treated with various prescribed medications.”

Halladay retired from baseball in December of 2013. Though his retirement wasn’t necessarily expected, his body failed him and his production significantly diminished over the 2012 and 2013 seasons. At his retirement press conference, he spent quite a bit of time talking about great the great experiences he had in Philadelphia and Toronto but did specifically refer to his back as one of the reasons he had decided to call it a career after 16 major league seasons.

The report lists specifics of the final minutes of Halladay’s flight, saying ” during the final three minutes of the flight, the airplane was traveling in a southerly direction along the shoreline; figure 1 shows the flight track. During the last two-and-a half minutes of the flight, the pilot conducted three maneuvers with high angles of attack (AOA) and load factors of almost 2 Gs; at that time, the airplane was over the water at GPS altitudes between 0 and 358 feet. During the final maneuver of the flight, the airplane entered a right turn, the engine power decreased, and the AOA reached 16°. The last recorded data point, at 1203:41, showed that the airplane’s airspeed was 75 knots and heading was 354.°”

“Substantial” was the word used in the report to describe the damage done to the plane by the crash, though it is noted that the crash did not cause the plane to catch on fire.

A public memorial was held for Halladay at Spectrum Field in Clearwater on Nov. 14, 2017. Halladay’s widow, Brandy, along with his two sons, Braden and Ryan, were present at the viewing. So too was Phillies managing partner John Middleton, along with former teammates Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Chris Carpenter, among others.

The Phillies posthumously inducted Halladay onto their Wall of Fame in August of 2018, a summer before he was inducted as a first-ballot Baseball Hall of Famer. The Phillies had planned to retire Halladay’s No. 34 on May 29, though COVID-19 will almost certainly force that ceremony to be postponed.

Even though he only spent the final four seasons of his career in Philadelphia, Halladay is one of the most dominant athletes that the city has ever seen. In 2010, his first season with the club, he threw a regular season perfect game, postseason no-hitter and won the National League Cy Young Award. Though he finished runner-up in the National League Cy Young Award race in 2011, Halladay had arguably his most dominant season, posting career lows in ERA (2.35) and FIP (2.20) and a career-high 8.3 fWAR.

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