Coroner, family link Michael Hastings to drug use at time of death

LAPD officers examine the scene of a car crash that killed journalist Michael Hastings, shown at right.
LAPD officers examine the scene of a car crash that killed journalist Michael Hastings, shown at right.
(Los Angeles Times / Associated Press)
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Journalist Michael Hastings, who was killed in a fiery Los Angeles crash in June, died of “traumatic injuries” as a result of the accident and had traces of drugs in his system, Los Angeles coroner’s officials said Tuesday.

Hastings, 33, died June 18 in a single-vehicle accident. His car burst into flames and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Coroner’s officials said Hastings had traces of amphetamine in his system, consistent with possible intake of methamphetamine many hours before death, as well as marijuana. Neither were considered a factor in the crash, according to toxicology reports.


DOCUMENT: Read the autopsy report

The cause of death was massive blunt force trauma consistent with a high-speed crash. He likely died within seconds, the report said.

Hastings had arrived in Los Angeles from New York the day before the accident, with his brother scheduled to arrive later the day of the crash “as his family was attempting to get [Hastings] to go to detox,” the report stated.

Hastings was believed sober for 14 years, but had recently begun using drugs again in the past month or so, according to the coroner’s office, based on interviews with family members.

A medical marijuana card was found in Hastings wallet and had been prescribed for treatment of post-traumatic stress resulting from his time as a war journalist in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hours before the crash, Hastings had last been seen by one witness “passed out” sometime between 12:30 a.m. and 1 a.m. The crash occurred just before 5 a.m.


In an interview with CNN, Hastings’ widow Elise Jordan called the crash a “really tragic accident.”

She told CNN’s Piers Morgan earlier this month that she didn’t “really have anything to add” to the ongoing police investigation into the crash in Hollywood that took her husband’s life.

“You know, my gut here, was that it was just a really tragic accident, and I’m very unlucky, and the world was very unlucky,” Jordan said.

Hastings’ Mercedes crashed on Highland Avenue near Melrose Avenue. The Los Angeles Police Department said there were no signs of foul play.

His death prompted numerous conspiracy theories, most suggesting that the famed journalist may have been killed while chasing his next big story.

The FBI said that Hastings was never under investigation by the agency.

“At no time was journalist Michael Hastings ever under investigation by the FBI,” the agency said in a statement.


Hastings’ 2010 Rolling Stone profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, “The Runaway General,” exposed the general and his staff’s disdain for their superiors, ranging from National Security Advisor James L. Jones to 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.”


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