Autopsy: drugs found in MLB star Roy Halladay’s system after plane crash

Published January 19 2018
Updated January 19 2018

When former Major League Baseball pitcher Roy Halladay died in a plane crash in November, he had amphetamines, morphine and the sleep aid zolpidem in his system, according to an autopsy report.

Halladay, 40, died from blunt force trauma with drowning as a contributing factor, according to the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner’s Office.

THE CRASH: Former MLB star Roy Halladay dead in plane crash in Pasco County

The retired All-Star was flying his personal plane when authorities said it crashed into the waters off New Port Richey on Nov. 7. The National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating.

But it was the drugs found in the pitcher’s system that concerned Dr. Bruce Goldberger, a pathologist and director of the University of Florida Health Forensic Medicine center.

"The drugs are particularly important in the assessment of the impairment of Mr. Halladay while operating the plane," Goldberger said. "The NTSB will take this evidence under consideration during their investigation of this accident."

The presence of those drugs alone does not mean the pilot was impaired, however. That determination has to be made by the federal agency, which has yet to release a final report.

"At this point you can’t assess impairment solely based on the drug concentrations," Goldberger said. "You have to wait for the NTSB to weigh in on their investigation. They’ll likely be able to assess the role of the drugs in the accident."

REMEMBRANCE: Roy Halladay recalled as ‘the real deal’ at public memorial

Amphetamines are a stimulant used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, morphine is an opiate and zolpidem, a sedative used as a sleep aid that is marketed as Ambien. The report does not say if Halladay had prescriptions for any of those medications.

Bill Pellan, director of investigations for the medical examiner’s office, said the NTSB has already conducted its own test of Halladay’s blood.

"Their results are very similar to ours," Pellan said. "That’s routine on any aircraft accident or fatality."

Federal investigators will consider all factors that contributed to the crash, Pellan said, such as the condition of the aircraft itself.

Halladay was an avid flyer who owned an ICON A5 — an amphibious two-seat plane with foldable wings. The NTSB’s preliminary report on the crash said the pilot flew very close to homes and the surface of the Gulf of Mexico shortly before striking the water. His body was found in about six feet of water.

INVESTIGATION: NTSB report details steep turns and dives preceding Roy Halladay’s fatal crash

Video from around the time of the incident shows the plane flying a couple of hundred feet in the air before dropping toward the water.

Halladay, a father of two, was an All-Star with the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies. He had retired to the Tampa Bay region, lived in Odessa and helped coach the baseball team at Calvary Christian High School, where his oldest son played. He left behind his wife, Brandy, and two sons, Braden and Ryan.

Halladay was among the top baseball players of his generation, twice winning the Cy Young Award given to the MLB’s best pitchers each year.