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 breaks 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. We don't know what was going on in the cab of that vehicle," 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.
McClendon had his gas pedal floored until 1½ seconds before impact, when he reduced it from 99 to 25 percent depressed, the police chief 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 it has yet to reveal the official manner of death or the toxicology test results, which usually take 4-6 weeks to complete.
The Tahoe simmered after the collision 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 said shortly after being indicted that he was the first person in the oil and gas industry to be accused of improprieties involving the joint bidding on leases, in which companies work together to solicit work.
He died the next morning after his SUV hit a support beneath Interstate 44, the Turner Turnpike, in northeastern Oklahoma City.
McClendon founded Chesapeake Energy with Tom Ward in 1989. Ward later left and formed SandRidge Energy Corp., which has disclosed it was subpoenaed amid an investigation into the awarding of land or mineral rights from the same time period covered in the McClendon indictment.
Prosecutors have not identified SandRidge as one of the unnamed companies from the indictment. Separately, Sandridge has said the Justice Department told the company it was the target of a separate Oklahoma federal grand jury investigation.
McClendon resigned as CEO at Chesapeake in 2013 after a revolt by activist shareholders including Carl Icahn. He started a new company, American Energy Partners, less than a mile from Chesapeake's headquarters in Oklahoma City. SandRidge investors ousted Ward the same year after a proxy fight; he later formed Tapstone Energy.