Michael Hastings: Coroner says finding cause of death weeks away

An LAPD officer investigates the scene of a single-vehicle accident in which journalist Michael Hastings was killed when his vehicle crashed into a tree and caught fire in Hancock Park.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles County coroner confirmed that the body found in a burning car Tuesday was that of journalist Michael Hastings, but said it will probably take weeks to determine the cause of death.

Hastings was driving a Mercedes-Benz that crashed on Highland Avenue near Melrose Avenue early Tuesday morning.

Coroner’s officials said they plan to conduct toxicology tests on Hastings. They are also attempting to determine whether any health issues contributed to the crash.


Police, meanwhile, are trying to determine how fast the car was going at the time. Sources said the car appears to have been traveling at a high rate of speed, but more details were not available.

Officials are also looking at the car itself in search any potential mechanical problems.

Hastings’ involvement with hot-button stories has led to a variety of conspiracy theories arising on the Internet over his death. But LAPD officials said the incident appears to have been an accident and that no other vehicles were involved.

Video of the accident scene showed the car engulfed in flames. Law enforcement sources said the car appeared to be going at a high rate of speed but emphasized that the investigation was ongoing.

The death of the 33-year-old Hastings was announced by his employer, BuzzFeed.

In a statement released Tuesday, BuzzFeed Editor in Chief Ben Smith said he and his team were “shocked and devastated by the news” of Hastings’ death.

Hastings was best known for a 2010 Rolling Stone profile that led to the resignation of Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Hastings was a contributing editor to the magazine.

At the time the article was published, McChrystal commanded all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. In the piece, he voiced open contempt for President Obama and administration policies.


After it was published, McChrystal was summoned to the White House to meet with the president. McChrystal resigned afterward.

The article won the 2010 George Polk award for magazine reporting.

Hastings started writing for BuzzFeed and joined the organization’s Los Angeles bureau after it opened in October.

“Michael Hastings will bring his hard-hitting reporting on national security and politics to the BuzzFeed Los Angeles Bureau while contributing to entertainment coverage as a Correspondent-at-Large,” Buzz Feed said at the time.

Hastings covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and also worked for GQ and Newsweek. He was the author of a book about his former fiancée, who was killed in Iraq in 2007.

“Michael was a great, fearless journalist with an incredible instinct for the story and a gift for finding ways to make his readers care about anything he covered, from wars to politicians,” Smith said in his statement Tuesday.

“He wrote stories that would otherwise have gone unwritten, and without him there are great stories that will go untold.”


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