Inset photo via Twitter
HOLIDAY (FOX 13) - Former Major League Baseball star and aviation enthusiast Roy Halladay was killed in a plane crash off the coast of Pasco County this afternoon, shocking sports fans from Florida to Philadelphia.
The crash happened just after noon in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, just north of Bailey’s Bluff in Holiday. Deputies say a resident called 911 after seeing the aircraft crash into the water, but there were no reports of problems ahead of the crash, either from neighbors or the aircraft itself.
The view from SkyFOX over the scene showed a small white plane upside down in the water. The first boat to respond to the crash could not get to the plane because the area is so shallow, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said, forcing them to call in a swift-water rescue team.
Halladay, 40, was a private pilot and had tweeted about the brand new amphibious sport plane that he liked to fly over the beach.
“I keep telling my dad flying the Icon A5 low over the water is like flying a fighter jet!” one tweet boasted.
The specific aircraft Halladay was flying was the first of 100 “Founders Edition” ICON A5's built for 2018. A press release on ICON’s website says the airplane was delivered to Halladay in mid-October. Halladay is quoted in the release saying “not only is it the safest and easiest aircraft I’ve ever flown, it is hands-down the most fun.”
ICON’s website features a promotional video of Halladay and his wife, Brandy, in which they were clearly excited about owning the sports aircraft. The video shows scenes of the couple flying across the Florida landscape.
In the video, Brandy says she was reluctant about flying in a small plane at first, but had a change of heart after visiting the training center in St. Petersburg. “You forget that you’re in a plane. You’re just there. You are experiencing the beauty of Florida” she says, adding, “Now that we’re going to have one, I’m really excited."
The aircraft’s manufacturer confirmed Tuesday that they were aware of the crash.
“We can confirm that an ICON A5 was involved in an incident in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida earlier today,” company spokesman Zac Herndon told FOX 29 in Philadelphia. “We are in the process of finding out more information and will provide more details as facts come in.”
Halladay retired to his offseason home in Odessa in 2013 after 15 years in the major leagues with Toronto and Philadelphia. He pitched the 20th perfect game in MLB history in 2010, and threw the second no-hitter in postseason history later that season. He’s an eight-time All-Star and two-time Cy Young winner.
Aside from aviation, Halladay helped coach several local youth baseball teams, including Calvary Christian High School’s state champion team.
Halladay is survived by his wife and two children. Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco remembered him as a friend of the department -- “one in a million,” Nocco opined – who had donated funds to buy a K9 officer and who humbly participated in charity events.
“I saw him Friday,” Nocco said sadly. “We had a charity fishing event. Sadly, we were right here in these waters right here, fishing for charity. Roy was right here with us. And I can tell you, being a pilot and flying planes – that was his passion.”
The response from around Major League Baseball was similar. The Philadelphia Phillies said the team was “numb” over the news.
“There are no words to describe the sadness that the entire Phillies family is feeling over the loss of one of the most respected human beings to ever play the game,” a team statement offered. “It is with the heaviest of hearts that we pass along our condolences to Brandy, Ryan and Braden.”
"We're saddened by the tragic loss of Colorado native & former MLB pitcher Roy Halladay. We send our deepest condolences to Roy's loved ones," the Colorado Rockies said.