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article imageNew video, statistics raise odds of foul play in Hastings death

By Ralph Lopez     Jul 30, 2013 in World
A study by the National Fire Protection Association shows that only 3% of cars catch on fire as the result of crash impacts. Instantaneous explosions of vehicles are almost unheard of.
At the same time, a newly unearthed surveillance video shows that the crash which killed Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings resulted in a massive explosion which lit up the sky in the immediate vicinity, uncharacteristic of the typical high-speed crash which results in badly twisted metal, but rarely fire.
The study gives a statistical sense of the unlikelihood of the manner in which Hastings' car crashed on the night of June 18, 2013 in Los Angeles, hours after his friend Sgt. Joe Biggs described him as "panicked." Biggs was one of the soldier friends Biggs had met in the course of his embeds in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the email, received by Biggs and other friends, Hastings said he was working on a "big story," but believed he was being investigated by the FBI. In the email Hastings told friends that he needed to "go off the radar for a bit." By 4:30 a.m. less than 14 hours later, Hastings was dead.
The email from Hastings reads:
Subject: FBI Investigation, re: NSA
Hey (redacted names) -- the Feds are interviewing my "close friends and associates." Perhaps if the authorities arrive "BuzzFeed GQ," er HQ, may be wise to immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news-gathering practices or related journalism issues.
Also: I'm onto a big story, and need to go off the rada[r] for a bit.
All the best, and hope to see you all soon.
The newly uncovered surveillance video, given to LA Weekly, originates from the Pizzeria Mozza. In it, a black car can be seen speeding at what easily seems to be over 100mph, and a second later a fireball extending at least 100 feet across and well above rooftops can be seen. Witnesses have described hearing and feeling an "explosion" which rattled walls and windows.
Hastings is best known for a Rolling Stone story in which General Stanley McChrystal and staffers in Afghanistan spoke ill of Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, whereupon Hastings reported the comments, resulting in the dismissal of McChrystal. Many in the journalistic profession have noted that highly-placed public figures such as McChrystal know that they are always on the record.
Less known is Hastings' criticism and writing on US Army Generals William Caldwell and David Petraeus. In a 2011 Rolling Stone article, "Another Runaway General," Hastings wrote that Caldwell had illegally used a military psychological operations unit (Psy-Ops) on US senators. In television interviews, Hasting lambasted Petraeus for lack of "integrity," and for financing the worst of the worst Sunni death squads in Iraq during his tenure there as the top US commander.
An unusual note in the mystery is the entry of former counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke into the debate, who told the Huffington Post that it was possible to "hack" the controls of a vehicle in order to cause it to crash by remote, by hijacking the onboard electronics of modern vehicles.
Clarke said:
"There is reason to believe that intelligence agencies for major powers" -- including the United States -- know how to remotely seize control of a car. "
The Los Angeles Police department ruled out foul play for such an unusual event within days.
The issue of the safety of automobile fuel tanks, from which the explosive danger in cars arises, gained prominence in the Seventies when consumer advocates charged that the design of the Ford Pinto gas tank was causing an inordinate number of deaths by burning, after passengers had survived the crash itself. Gas tank placement and safer materials and design have since constituted an evolving science in automobile engineering, making impact fires and explosions extremely rare. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a premier testing organization, has rated the Mercedes GLK class SUV that Hastings was driving one of the 66 safest cars on the road.
At the same time, Hastings was known by his friends to be a non-drinker and to drive, according to Sgt. Biggs, "like a grandma."
An explosion of the type witnessed in the newly unearthed surveillance video is almost unheard of in the automobile safety field, and even more so in a GLK class Mercedes. In a typical instance of a car catching fire after a crash impact, fuel drips and catches fire on the ground and around the car, with no violent explosion. A car may eventually explode in such a case after the fuel in the tank has been heated to produce fuel in a gaseous state in the tank, which is then susceptible to sparks and flame and can explode. But gas in its liquid state does not explode when touched to fire, and merely lights much as kerosene would.
Typical high-speed vehicle crashes
Video including last interviews of Michael Hastings
More about michael hastings, Fbi agent, Rolling stone, General david petraeus, Lt General William B Caldwell
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