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Journalist Michael Hastings had drugs in system when he died, coroner’s report says

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This undated photo provided by Blue Rider Press/Penguin shows award-winning journalist and war correspondent Michael Hastings. (AP)

The Los Angeles Coroner’s Office says journalist Michael Hastings, who won fame writing the Rolling Stone article that ended General Stanley McChrystal's career, had drugs including amphetamines and marijuana in his system when he was killed in a fiery car crash in June.

However, coroner's investigators said the drugs likely did not contribute to the crash, which they classified as an accident.  Toxicology results showed small amounts of amphetamine in Hastings' blood, which indicated he had possibly taken methamphetamine many hours before his death. Traces of marijuana were also present, indicating he'd taken it hours earlier.

Hasting’s cause of death was massive blunt force trauma, and the coroner determined he likely lost consciousness upon impact and died within seconds.

The autopsy report came two months after Hastings' death on a deserted Los Angeles street fueled conspiracy theories and prompted the FBI to release an unusual statement that it had not been investigating him.

Hastings died when his Mercedes, traveling at a high rate of speed, crossed into the median on Highland Avenue in Hollywood and struck a tree on June 18. The car burst into flames and Hastings' body was charred to the point that it took several days to positively identify him.

The report states that Hastings had been "sober" for 14 years, but his family believed he had started using drugs again in the month before his death. 

According to investigators, the crash occurred a day after Hastings returned from New York, where his wife was living at the time, and hours before a brother was due to join another family member in urging Hastings to go to detox. Family members said Hastings had been using the hallucinogenic DMT recently, though the drug was not detected in a blood test after the crash.

The names of family members who spoke to investigators were redacted in the report.

The report said a family member had last seen Hastings passed out at home about three hours before the crash. The person said Hastings had been smoking marijuana the night before the crash.

Investigators said Hastings was found after the crash with a medicinal marijuana identity card in his wallet, and that the drug apparently was used to ease post-traumatic stress disorder after his assignments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The report also noted that Hastings had hit a pole while driving several years ago and was possibly misusing Ritalin at the time. He was later institutionalized for rehabilitative care.

A family member told investigators Hastings didn't have a history of suicide attempts but believed he was invincible and could jump off a balcony and be fine.

At the time of his death, Hastings was working as a contributing editor for Rolling Stone and wrote about politics for Buzzfeed.

He won a 2010 George Polk Award for magazine reporting for the McChrystal article, which was titled "The Runaway General."

His story was considered responsible for ending McChrystal's career after it revealed the military's candid criticisms of the Obama administration.

Hastings was also an author of books about the wars. "The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan" was published late last year and details shocking exploits of the military overseas.

In 2010, with the publication of "I Lost My Love in Baghdad," Hastings told the story of being a young war correspondent whose girlfriend dies in Iraq.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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