Aubrey McClendon’s car was traveling 78 mph when it hit a wall and burst into flames, killing the former Chesapeake Energy CEO on March 2, the Oklahoma City police said Monday.
The shale-drilling pioneer’s 2013 Chevy Tahoe crashed on a two-lane road the day after a federal grand jury indicted him on bid-rigging charges. Officials have made no ruling yet on whether the accident was deliberate or accidental.
McClendon, 56, tapped on the brakes several times, police said, but didn’t act assertively to slow the vehicle in the last 31 feet before the crash. The vehicle crossed the road’s center line 189 feet before hitting the wall, maintaining a speed of 88 mph even as McClendon lightly tapped the brakes several times. It slowed to 78 mph at impact, possibly because it hit softer ground after leaving the roadway, the police said.
The county medical examiner has said McClendon died from wounds caused by multiple blunt-force trauma. Results of a toxicology report have not yet been released.
“We have investigators that are going to be talking to people to try and put the pieces together from maybe the night before until the time this happened to find out if there would be any reason that he decided to take his own life,” Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty said Monday in Oklahoma City.
The crash occurred in a rural area about 20 minutes northeast of his offices in Oklahoma City. The country road McClendon sped down offered limited room for maneuvering, with thick, bushy trees on both sides and no shoulder. An initial police report of the crash said McClendon was not wearing his seat belt while traveling at a high rate of speed. The listed speed limit was 50 mph.
The crash details are based on an examination of the SUV’s data recorder, which showed what the vehicle was doing up to five seconds before impact, Citty said. The head-on collision with the concrete wall caused the Tahoe to rotate counterclockwise as it bounced back and came to rest 7 feet from the point of impact, according to the completed report released by police Monday.
The day before the crash, a federal grand jury charged McClendon in connection with a scheme between two “large oil and gas companies” to avoid bidding against each other for leases in northwest Oklahoma from December 2007 to March 2012. In a statement hours after the indictment was announced, McClendon called the charge “wrong and unprecedented.”
McClendon co-founded Chesapeake Energy, expanding it from modest beginnings into the second-largest U.S. natural gas producer, thanks to his championing of hydraulic fracturing in fields including the Barnett Shale in North Texas.
Tumbling gas prices and concern over conflicts related to his personal finances ultimately led to McClendon’s ouster from Chesapeake in 2013.