Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Business

Police: Chesapeake Energy founder McClendon hit bridge support at 78 mph, didn't try to turn

OKLAHOMA CITY — Chesapeake Energy founder Aubrey McClendon had the gas pedal floored in his SUV until just before it slammed into a bridge support at 78 mph, and it doesn't seem he tried to avoid the deadly crash, authorities said Monday.

McClendon tapped his brakes before impact, but not enough to slow his vehicle significantly, police Chief Bill Citty said at a news conference. There was no evidence that McClendon tried to veer away before impact.

Citty wouldn't say whether he thinks the former Chesapeake CEO intended to crash or had full control of his Chevrolet Tahoe.

"We're not going to speculate. We don't know what was going through his mind at the time," Citty said.

McClendon died March 2, a day after a federal grand jury indicted him on a bid-rigging charge. The part-owner of the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder had vowed to fight the accusation.

The vehicle's data recorder showed that McClendon was driving 88 mph and then tapped his brakes, but not enough to significantly reduce speed. The brakes were fully operative, Citty said.

Investigators found tire tracks but no skid marks. Police are checking McClendon's cellphone records to determine if he was on the phone.

The medical examiner's office said previously that McClendon died from multiple blunt force trauma, but has yet to reveal the official manner of death or the toxicology test results, which usually take four to six weeks to complete.

The Tahoe simmered after the crash before it caught on fire, a witness told police. Medical examiners identified McClendon's body using dental records, spokeswoman Amy Elliott said.

A federal grand jury indicted McClendon on March 1, alleging he conspired to rig the bidding process for natural gas leases in Oklahoma from 2007 to 2012, when he led Chesapeake Energy.

In the charging document, prosecutors alleged that McClendon, two unnamed companies and an unnamed co-conspirator would decide who would win the bid to certain drilling rights and then give the "loser" a share in the lease.

McClendon died the next morning after his SUV hit a support beneath Interstate 44, the Turner Turnpike, in northeastern Oklahoma City.

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