Coroner Releases Michael Hasting's Autopsy, Death Ruled Accidental

The BuzzFeed Journalist died on June 18 when his car crashed into palm trees in the median on Highland Avenue.

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

Guy Montag August 22, 2013 at 06:03 AM
"..best known for a 2010 profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who, along with aides, mocked several civilian officials..." During her August 5th Piers Morgan Interview, Jordan said: “It was absolutely ridiculous and totally classless. … If the obituary writer had bothered to go back and read the [DoD Rolling Stone] report, she would see what she put out there actually was factually inaccurate, I still feel very strongly that we should have a retraction, but clearly the New York Times management can’t step up to the plate and admit they made a mistake.” My condolences to Elise Jordan and the Hastings family. My tribute to Michael, Elise, and Andi can be found in my post, "More Lies Borne Out By Facts, If Not the Truth" --The New York Time’s Disingenuous Obituary of Michael Hastings & Their Whitewash of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Role in “Le’Affair Rolling Stan” & “The Pat Tillman Story,” at the Feral Firefighter blog (my take on the car crash is in Appendix G & H). Ending her review of his great book about Gen. McChrystal & the Afghan War, “The Operators,” Kelly Vahlos wrote: “The overwhelming feeling is, well, sadness. … a million film plots of mortal men who flew too high and came down with a crash. The rest … is just plain sad.”
Guy Montag August 22, 2013 at 06:05 AM
"Coroner Releases Michael Hasting's Autopsy, Death Ruled Accidental" Many other headlines mention “drug use” even though the coroner said drugs “were unlikely to have an intoxicative effect at the time of the accident.” Instead, the report suggests that PSTD from his time as a war correspondent was a factor (for details, see the LA Weekly Gene Maddaus piece, “Michael Hastings' Dangerous Mind: Journalistic Star Was Loved, Feared and Haunted,” with quotes from the neighbor who last saw him that night). Three weeks ago, Rolling Stone reporter Tim Dickinson wrote (see p. 118 of my post at the Feral Firefighter blog): “Hastings lived life at full throttle, raced his demons and, at times, took unnecessary risks. … Hasting’s younger brother, Jeff—who was awarded a Bronze Star as an infantry officer in Iraq…says he accepts the obvious and, in some ways, more difficult explanation for his brother’s death: that Michael simply drove too fast and didn’t survive.” In 2010 Hastings wrote an Afterword to “I Lost My Love In Baghdad” (p. 12): “There was no good excuse for me to be back in Afghanistan or Iraq … Was part of me looking to get killed, too? To even the scales, neatly tie up my love for her, to complete the narrative? Two lovers, both dead. How tragic. ... Maybe there was some part of me that didn’t want to die just yet, wanting to say, ‘**** you war, you can’t destroy me. I’m going to win this, on my own terms.’ A delusion, of course, because war always wins.”


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