The 40-year-old Roy Halladay was the only one aboard his private aircraft when it crashed into the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday

By Steve Helling
November 07, 2017 04:29 PM

Roy Halladay, a retired pitcher who spent 15 years in Major League Baseball, died in a small plane crash on Tuesday. He was 40.

Halladay’s ICON A5 light sport aircraft crashed about 10 miles west of St. Petersburg, Florida. It was recovered in the Gulf of Mexico. He was the only one on board, the Pasco County Sheriff confirmed in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

Jason Miller/Getty

Halladay made his major league debut on September 20, 1998, when he was 21. He played for the Toronto Blue Jays for 11 seasons before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for the last three years of his career.

He retired due to a persistent back injury in 2013, but continued to be a guest instructor for both the Blue Jays and the Phillies.

Halladay and his wife, Brandy, had two children.

After receiving the ICON aircraft earlier this fall, Halladay spoke to the company about how much he loved flying. The company posted the interview on its website.

“I’ve been dreaming about flying since I was a boy but was only able to become a pilot once I retired from baseball,” Halladay said. “Not only is it the safest and easiest aircraft I’ve ever flown, it is hands-down the most fun. The beaches, lakes, and waterways my family and I get to explore around Florida are mind-blowing. Even my wife, who used to be uncomfortable in small planes, now asks where we should take the A5 for the weekend.”

He also tweeted about his new plane numerous times in recent weeks, in posts that seem haunting in retrospect.

“I have dreamed about owning a A5 since I retired!” he tweeted. “Real life is better than my dreams!!”

As news of his death spread, tributes quickly poured in for the two-time Cy Young winner — from the baseball community and beyond.

“I lost a great friend today. All love Roy!!!” wrote country star Kenny Chesney, as he shared shots of himself with Halladay.

Actor Miles Teller also tweeted an emotional message: God damn’t. No! Roy Halladay, one of the most dominant pitchers to ever toe the rubber and always generous to his legion of fans. RIP.

The Phillies and Blue Jays also shared heartfelt messages about his death.

“We are numb over the news of Halladay’s untimely death,” wrote the Phillies. “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.”

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