Aubrey McClendon’s car was traveling 78 miles per hour when it crashed, killing him on March 2, the Oklahoma City police said Monday. The shale oil pioneer’s 2013 Chevy Tahoe hit a wall and burst into flames on a two-lane road near the city.
McClendon tapped on the brakes several times, but didn’t act to slow the vehicle in the last 31 feet before the crash, according to police who said they are continuing to investigate. The medical examiner has said McClendon died from multiple blunt force trauma. A toxicology report is still expected to be released.
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, 56, co-founded Chesapeake Energy Corp., expanding it from modest beginnings into the second-largest U.S. natural gas producer, thanks to his championing of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling at a time when larger, more established players were skeptical of shale’s potential. At its height in June 2008, Chesapeake was valued at $37.5 billion.
Tumbling gas prices from an oversupply of the heating and power plant fuel ultimately led to McClendon’s ouster from Chesapeake in 2013, after the company’s value fell by more than half. He then formed American Energy Partners, and raised more than $10 billion for acquisitions.
The site of the crash was 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 side and no shoulder on the road. 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 miles an hour.
Police said last week they were working on a computer reanimation of the accident and were rechecking and confirming all data and calculations for the completed accident report and planned to release it early this week.