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Witnesses reported seeing an aircraft performing maneuvers at a low altitude before a crash off the Florida coast that killed former MLB pitching great Roy Halladay, a federal crash investigator said Wednesday.
The cause of the crash of the ICON A5 light sport amphibious plane is still under investigation and it could be one to two years before a final federal report is completed, National Transportation Safety Board investigator in charge Noreen Price told reporters a day after the fatal crash in the Gulf of Mexico.
Price wouldn't go into specifics of witness statements for fear of influencing other witnesses but said, "Generally, a lot of witnesses have said that the plane was maneuvering at low altitude."
A licensed pilot, Halladay, 40, was the sole occupant of the aircraft when it went down, officials have said. He was killed when the plane crashed into a shallow area about a quarter-mile off Bailey’s Bluff, northwest of Tampa, authorities said.
Halladay pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies, and won the Cy Young Award twice. Some considered him to be one of the greatest pitchers of his time. He retired in December of 2013.
Investigators believe Halladay took off from Odessa, Florida, Tuesday morning but are still putting together a timeline, Price said. The crash was reported at 12:06 p.m.
Video purporting to show the aircraft in a series of what appeared to be low dives and other maneuvers before the crash was posted by the website TMZ Wednesday. The website said the boaters who took the video saw the crash and rushed to try and help. NBC News has not confirmed their account.
Price said that she had not yet watched that video but said "I encourage that person to reach out to us and directly give us that data, I’m sure it would help the investigation."
She said Halladay was a certificated private pilot since 2013, and according to his log book he had approximately 700 flight hours.
The aircraft had two data recorders and both were recovered, Price said. There was no voice recorder. It appeared that no mayday call was made, but Price said that sometimes it takes days for that information to come out and that could change.
The data recorders would likely have recorded GPS location, performance, air speed and altitude, among other data, she said.
The plane was found in approximately 4 feet of water and it was upside down and at a southerly heading, Price said. She said "it looked like a high energy impact, but all the pieces were there."
The ICON A5 is an amphibious sport airplane that debuted in 2014. Price said the plane involved in Tuesday’s crash was a 2018 model.
ICON and the manufacturer of the engine are assisting the NTSB probe as technical experts, Price said. A preliminary report on the crash could be published in 7 to 10 days, she said.
Price asked that anyone with photos or videos of the airplane flying or the accident to contact the NTSB.