The death of energy mogul Aubrey McClendon was an accident, according to the Oklahoma medical examiner’s office. The 56-year-old industry leader was killed March 2 in a fiery car crash.
Released on Wednesday, an eight-page autopsy reported revealed McClendon received numerous broken bones, serious burns, and traumatic injuries after the SUV he was driving slammed into a concrete bridge support. However, the examiner’s report did note traces of a commonly used sleep aid in the executive’s system.
OKC police say found no evidence "which would compel us to believe" Aubrey McClendon's death was not an accident pic.twitter.com/3KJNn28guu— Ed Crooks (@Ed_Crooks) June 7, 2016
Earlier this week, crash investigators said there was no evidence to suggest the crash was a suicide attempt, as some had previously believed. The accident occurred just one day after McClendon was indicted by a federal grand jury on conspiracy charges, including bid rigging.
“We spoke to anybody who may have had contact with him after he found out about the indictment,” Oklahoma City Police Capt. Paco Balderrama said Tuesday. “He did not leave anything that would be interpreted as a suicide note or message.”
The Chevy Tahoe’s data recorder indicated the ex-Chesapeake Energy CEO was driving nearly 90 mph when the vehicle went left of center about 189 feet from the impact point. The SUV slowed to 78 just moments before striking the bridge.
According to the data, McClendon had the gas pedal pressed as far as it would go, but let off and tapped the brakes 1.5 seconds before impact. Investigators did not find any skid marks at the scene.
“He pretty much drove straight into the wall,” Balderrama said in a March 2 statement. “The information out there at the scene is that he went left of center, went through a grassy area right before colliding into the embankment. There was plenty of opportunity for him to correct and get back on the roadway and that didn’t occur.”
The day before McClendon’s death, the U.S. Justice Department accused him of making a deal with two large energy companies to not bid against one another for the purchase of oil and natural gas leases in northwest Oklahoma. Before the bidding started, the companies decided who would buy the leases and arranged to split the profits.
The indictment did not name the companies involved, but the charges were for activities while McClendon was in charge of Chesapeake Energy, a company he founded in 1989. If convicted, the ex-CEO could have spent up to 10 years behind bars.
Prior to his death, McClendon issued a statement adamantly denying the charges.
“I have been singled out as the only person in the oil and gas industry in over 110 years since the Sherman Act became law to have been accused of this crime in relation to joint bidding on leasehold. Anyone who knows me, my business record and the industry in which I have worked for 35 years, knows that I could not be guilty of violating any antitrust laws.”
The Justice Department dropped the case after he died.
McClendon was forced out of Chesapeake in 2013 by the new board of directors because of disagreements about the company’s direction. Shortly thereafter, it was disclosed that the former executive borrowed over $1 billion to fund his extravagant lifestyle using a personal stake in the company as collateral.
After his ousting, McClendon raised $14 billion from investors and started a new company, American Energy Partners LP, just down the street from Chesapeake. Often spotted courtside, the business titan was also part-owner of the Oklahoma Thunder basketball team.
Despite the federal charges and the suspicions surrounding his death, Aubrey McClendon died due to a tragic accident and not by suicide as some have speculated. The energy executive is survived by his wife, Katie, and three children.
[Photo by AP Images, file]