It has been almost three weeks since BuzzFeed reporter Michael Hastings was killed in a fiery car crash in Los Angeles, yet important details about his death are still unknown.
XETV-TV in San Diego is investigating the mysterious car accident to find answers regarding the award-winning journalist's sudden death. Hastings is best known for his 2010 Rolling Stone bombshell story that forced Gen. Stanley McChrystal to resign as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
FILE - This undated file photo provided by Blue Rider Press/Penguin shows award-winning journalist and war correspondent Michael Hastings. The Los Angeles County coroner's office has confirmed that a body removed from a burned car wreck, Tuesday, June 18, 2013 in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles is that of Hastings. Coroner's Lt. Fred Corral says that the findings on the cause of death are deferred pending the results of toxicology tests expected in eight to 10 weeks. Credit: AP
XETV-TV details what we know about Hastings' death so far:
According to City News Service Hastings, 33, “was driving south on Highland Avenue when he apparently lost control of the compact (2013 Mercedes Benz CLK250) near Melrose Avenue and crashed into palm trees in the median about 4:20 a.m. Tuesday (June 18). The car's engine reportedly ended up about 200 feet away from the impact site.”
An eyewitness at the scene, Jose, employed at nearby business ALSCO Inc said, the car was travelling very fast and he heard a couple explosions shortly before the car crashed. In fact, the explosion was so intense that it took the LA County assistant corner, Ed Winter, two days to identify the burned-beyond recognition body of Hastings. Officials confirm that an autopsy has been performed, but the cause of death is pending. LAPD media spokesperson Lieutenant Andrew Neiman said, “it will take several weeks to get the toxicology results.” By stark contrast, in Italy, ‘Sopranos’ star James Gandolfini’s family received the toxicology report within a few days.
Despite the intensity of the single car accident, an LAPD statement determined that there was “no foul play” involved.
Shortly after his death, a number of reports surfaced that fueled conspiracy theories across the Internet.
It was first revealed that Hastings reportedly reached out to Wikileaaks attorney Jennifer Robinson just a few hours prior to his death, claiming the FBI was investigating him. The FBI has denied that Hastings was ever under investigation.
An email Hastings sent to friends and colleagues hours before his death created even more mystery. It read:
"Subject: FBI Investigation, re: NSA -Hey (redacted names) — the Feds are interviewing my 'close friends and associates.' Perhaps if the authorities arrive 'BuzzFeed GQ,' er HQ, may be wise to immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news gathering practices or related journalism issues. Also: I’m onto a big story, and need to go off the rada[r] for a bit.
All the best, and hope to see you all soon. Michael"
In his book, "The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan," Hastings revealed that a former McChrystal staffer threatened to hunt him down and kill him "if we don't like what you write." Hastings claimed he replied: "Well, I get death threats like that about once a year, so no worries."
XETV-TV also points out some inconsistencies and concerning details and theories about the crash:
After reading accounts of the car crash and examining the scene of the accident erroneous details were hard to overlook. Stories discussed the road as narrow, not true, it’s a four-lane road with a large median dividing traffic. Some reports said there was a curve in the road, also not true; in fact it’s straight freeway-to-freeway. Also, there was no damage to the median curb, only fire discoloration. But the most significant missing evidence was the absence of any skid marks—even though the car made a 60-degree turn into a palm tree.
Research of this topic reveals a new angle to this story, namely —Boston Brakes.
This theory was explained by a former Marine Gordon Duff who refers to the “Boston Brakes” technique, in which “drive by wire” cars, specifically a Mercedes Benz, can be manipulated remotely to simulate an out-of-control accident, according to his Veterans Today story (The 2010 story is a must read). The story details are eerily similar to Hastings fiery accident scene as there were no skid marks.
Adding credence to the possible car-hacking scenario is former U.S. National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke. After news broke on the Hastings car accident, he confirmed the “drive by wire” concept.
Law enforcement officials have also discussed the unusual intensity of the fire inside Hastings car. "It's highly unusual since gasoline generally doesn't burn that hot," the report adds. The video of the car fire appears to resemble a "thermite" burn.
"No matter how you slice this highly suspicious car accident, a Mercedes is not going to explode into flames without assistance" XETV-TV explains.
Automobile experts reportedly claim fires in new cars occur due to three main reasons: "Running the engine out of oil, running the engine out of coolant, or a mammoth car mangling accident, that leaves the hot side of the battery to short out against the frame before it reaches the fuse panel."
Read the station's full report here.