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By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES, Aug 20 (Reuters) - A prominent U.S. journalist whose reporting led to the ouster of the senior U.S. military commander in Afghanistan had traces of methamphetamine in his blood when he was killed in June in a fiery Los Angeles car crash, autopsy findings showed on Tuesday.
The drugs in Michael Hastings’ system were of an amount unlikely to have contributed to the crash in which the Mercedes-Benz he was driving struck a tree and burst into flames, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office report.
A Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman said at the time that “there was no evidence of foul play in the accident,” but the news stirred Internet conspiracy theories suggesting the journalist had been the victim of government efforts to silence him.
Hastings, 33, was best known for a 2010 Rolling Stone profile of Army General Stanley McChrystal that quoted the military leader making disparaging remarks about President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Obama soon relieved McChrystal of his post and replaced him with then-General David Petraeus.
The autopsy found Hastings died of traumatic injuries from a car collision with a fixed object and that he succumbed to his injuries within seconds of impact.
Toxicology results showed a small amount of amphetamine in Hastings’ blood consistent with “possible intake of methamphetamine many hours before death” but which would probably not have been “intoxicative” at the time of the crash.
Hastings also had marijuana in his system in the form of its metabolite, indicating possible pot use hours before his death. “Family had just arrived from New York the day prior, attempting to get decedent to go to rehab,” the report said.
It also cited the initial Los Angeles police investigation as having found that Hastings had been traveling at a “high rate of speed” when he “apparently lost control of his vehicle.”
Hastings’ widow, Elise Jordan, in an interview with CNN host Piers Morgan earlier this month, downplayed the conspiracy theories.
“The LAPD still has an active investigation,” Jordan told CNN. “I don’t really have anything to add. My gut here is that it was just a really tragic accident, and I‘m very unlucky and the world was very unlucky.”
A June Twitter posting from anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks said the journalist contacted a WikiLeaks attorney hours before his death to tell them the FBI was investigating him. The post fueled online speculation about the nature of his death.
The FBI in a statement in June said “at no time” was Hastings under investigation by the agency. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Prudence Crowther)