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August 22, 2013

Reports Shed New Light on the Death of Michael Hastings


Michael Hastings, the acclaimed journalist who considered Vermont his "spiritual home" after spending parts of his life here, died in a fiery, early-morning car wreck in Los Angeles in June. The strange circumstances surrounding the crash and Hastings' history of reporting articles unfriendly to the powers-that-be prompted a flurry of theories suggesting that the incident was an assassination.

Now an autopsy report and an exhaustive newspaper feature have revealed new details about Hastings and the crash that killed him.

On Tuesday the Los Angeles coroner's office released its official report about the Hastings crash, declaring it an accident and noting that drugs were found in his system, but, in the coroner's view, they did not play a role in the crash. Via the Los Angeles Times

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. 

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

Through interviews, the report also reveals that Hastings' brother was visiting and attempting to persuade Hastings to enter rehab. You can read the entire autopsy report at the Los Angeles Times site, although be warned that it includes some disturbing detail.

Today LA Weekly published a long piece about the life and death of Hastings, including several new details about his mental state before the crash that took his life. 

His behavior grew increasingly erratic. Helicopters often circle over the hills, but Hastings believed there were more of them around whenever he was at home, keeping an eye on him. He came to believe his Mercedes was being tampered with.

LA Weekly also reports that, after years of sobriety, Hastings began to relapse in 2010. Exactly what he was using remains an open question; Hastings' brother reportedly told investigators that he was using DMT and possibly harder drugs, but his neighbor says he only used marijuana as prescribed to him to treat post-traumatic stress disorder — a common but little-discussed health issue for war correspondents.

These reports don't quite close the book on what remains a stunning, mysterious crash. But the entire LA Weekly piece is worth a read for its insight into the mind that brought us some of the most important news stories in recent years.


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