The coroner's office Tuesday classified journalist Michael Hastings' death in a fiery car crash in Hancock Park as accidental, in a report stating that amphetamine and the active ingredient in marijuana were found in his system but were "unlikely contributory" factors in his death.
Hastings, 33, was southbound on Highland Avenue about 4:20 a.m. June 18 when his speeding Mercedes-Benz crashed into palm trees in the median and caught fire. His death was "instantaneous," according to the coroner's report.
A witness told a photographer that the car was going about 100 mph shortly before the crash. An autopsy was conducted two days later, but the results were deferred pending the results of toxicology tests.
Those tests determined that "a small amount of methamphetamine and tetrahydrocannabinol -- THC -- was detected" in Hastings' system, according to the coroner's office. "Levels indicate prior, but not recent, usage."
"The final cause of death has been determined to be traumatic injuries," the report says.
According to the autopsy report, a toxicology test "shows a small amount of amphetamine in the blood, consistent with possible intake of methamphetamine many hours before death, unlikely to have an intoxicative effect at the time of the accident. Marijuana was present in the blood, but mostly in the form of its metabolite, indicating intake hours earlier. All other drugs were negative."
Investigators also noted in the report that Hastings' family "had just arrived from New York the day prior (to the crash), attempting to get decedent to go to rehab."
Hastings, who was working for BuzzFeed in Los Angeles at the time of his death, covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was probably best known for a 2010 profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who, along with aides, mocked several civilian officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Advisor James Jones and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry.
McChrystal was not quoted as being directly critical of President Barack Obama, but comments from his aides reflected his disappointment with the commander-in-chief after their first two meetings. The publication of those statements in the Rolling Stone story titled "The Runaway General" led Obama to recall McChrystal to Washington and replace him with Gen. David Petraeus.
The article won Hastings the prestigious 2010 Polk Award for magazine reporting and served as the basis for his first book, "The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan."
Hastings later published the book "I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story," about his fiance, who was killed in a Baghdad car bombing in 2007. He married Elise Jordan, a writer, in May 2011.
The Los Angeles Police Department's previous conclusion that foul play was not suspected in the wreck followed on the heels of a number of conspiracy theories that emerged online following Hastings' death.
U.S. News and World Report cited a tweet by WikiLeaks that stated Hastings had contacted WikiLeaks attorney Jennifer Robinson a few hours before his death, alleging the FBI was investigating him.
"At no time was journalist Michael Hastings ever under investigation by the FBI," Los Angeles-based bureau spokeswoman Laura Eimiller previously told City News Service in response to the online allegations.
A native of Burlington, Vt., who was educated at New York University, Hastings was also known for interviewing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
At the time of his death, he was reportedly working on a story about Jill Kelley, the Florida socialite who became embroiled in the scandal that erupted around Petraeus, who was serving as CIA director until he resigned Nov. 9 over an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, his biographer.
-City News Service