FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Reuters) – Witnesses said retired baseball star Roy Halladay maneuvered his plane at low altitude before he died when it crashed off the coast of central Florida, a federal official said on Wednesday.
Investigators are trying to find what caused the crash of Halladay’s ICON A5 single-engine amphibian aircraft on Tuesday in the Gulf of Mexico, less than a mile offshore from the city of New Port Richey.
Halladay won a Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in both the American and National Leagues, was named an eight-time All-Star and amassed 203 regular-season victories.
Video from boaters shows his plane making a turn as it descended toward the water. The footage was posted online by celebrity website TMZ, which reported the boaters said the plane repeatedly went from an altitude of about 100 feet (30 meters) to 5 feet (1.5 m).
National Transportation Safety Board investigator Noreen Price was asked at a news conference in Florida about how Halladay, 40, had been flying the plane.
“Generally, a lot of witnesses have said that the plane was maneuvering at low altitude,” Price said.
But she declined to give a full account of what witnesses told investigators, citing the ongoing probe, which she said could take a year or two.
Halladay became a certified pilot in 2013, the year he retired from Major League Baseball, and had logged 700 hours in flight, Price said. He took off on Tuesday from Odessa, Florida, north of Tampa.
He did not send out any distress calls, authorities said, and two data recorders were recovered from the wreckage.
Before his death, Halladay expressed excitement about his ICON A5. He received the first 2018 model of the A5, ICON said in a statement last month.
“ICON will do everything it can to support the accident investigation … and we will comment further when more information is available,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday.
Halladay began his career with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998 and was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009.
In 2010, he threw the second no-hitter in MLB post-season history, playing for the Phillies in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Halladay had settled in the Tampa Bay area, according to local media.
Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by G Crosse and James Dalgleish