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Michael Hastings death: Coroner still hasn't ID'd badly burned victim

Freedom of the PressRolling StoneKabul (Afghanistan)PoliticsGeorge Polk AwardsJames L. JonesStanley A. McChrystal

Los Angeles police said they have yet to determine the cause of a fiery solo-car crash in Hollywood that apparently killed award-winning journalist Michael Hastings.

The death of the 33-year-old Hastings was announced by his employer, BuzzFeed, which said he died in a Los Angeles car accident. 

But the Los Angeles County coroner's office had yet to determine Wednesday whether a body recovered from a fiery car crash was that of Hastings.

The body was “unrecognizable” and badly charred, police told the Los Angeles Times. The body is identified only as "John Doe 117.”

Coroner's officials were attempting to match dental records to help make a positive identification, according to authorities. No autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday.

The crash occurred early Tuesday on Highland Avenue near Melrose Avenue. Police said a vehicle was southbound on Highland about 4:20 a.m. when it lost control south of Melrose and smashed into a tree.

The website BuzzFeed first reported Hastings' death. Hastings had opened BuzzFeed's L.A. bureau last fall. An obituary by Rolling Stone magazine followed. He also wrote for that publication.

In reporting stints in Baghdad, Washington and Kabul, Hastings rejected the cozy-access reporting favored by some of his colleagues in favor of bare-knuckle truth-telling that sometimes rubbed his peers and subjects the wrong way.

His 2010 Rolling Stone profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal"The Runaway General," exposed the general and his staff's disdain for their superiors, including National Security Advisor James L. Jones, Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama.

Hastings won the prestigious George Polk Award for magazine reporting and later wrote a book about McChrystal and his time in the war zone: "The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan."

In a 2010 interview with the L.A. Times, Hastings said he admired "writers who live their lives with integrity and without compromise." He even identified McChrystal as a kindred spirit, someone who also liked to stick it to "The Man."

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andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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