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Journalist who brought down U.S. general is killed in Los Angeles car crash

BuzzFeed reporter Michael Hastings is shown in this undated Blue Rider Press photo released to Reuters on June 18, 2013. 
REUTERS/Blue Rider Press/Handout via Reuters
BuzzFeed reporter Michael Hastings is shown in this undated Blue Rider Press photo released to Reuters on June 18, 2013. REUTERS/Blue Rider Press/Handout via Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Journalist Michael Hastings, whose 2010 Rolling Stone magazine profile of the U.S. military chief in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, led to the general being relieved of command, died on Tuesday in a car wreck in Los Angeles, his employer said.

A statement from the editor-in-chief of online news outlet BuzzFeed reporting that Hastings, 33, had been killed, gave no details of the accident, and neither Los Angeles police nor the county coroner's office would confirm his death.

But police said a man who had not been identified was killed before dawn on Monday when his car slammed into a tree near Hollywood and burst into flames in what authorities say was the only fatal traffic accident reported in the city during the day.

The driver was the lone occupant of the automobile, police said.

Coroner's Lieutenant Fred Corral said the body of the driver was burned beyond recognition and that further investigation was required to make a positive identification.

Authorities said they had no further information about the circumstances or cause of the accident, which left the trunk of a palm tree at the corner of Melrose and Highland Avenues gouged and charred black.

"We are shocked and devastated by the news that Michael Hastings is gone," BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith said in a statement. "Michael was a great, fearless journalist with an incredible instinct for the story, and a gift for finding ways to make his readers care about anything he covered, from wars to politicians."

Hastings was best known for the Rolling Stone feature, headlined "The Runaway General," that brought about the resignation of McChrystal as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in June 2010.

Rolling Stone's executive editor, Eric Bates, said at the time that the U.S. military apparently had given the magazine access to the general in hopes that a positive profile reaching its young readers might help boost Army recruitment.

Instead, the article Hastings wrote portrayed McChrystal and his aides making disparaging comments about President Barack Obama and other civilian leaders, prompting the president to relieve the Army general of his command.

Hastings, who remained a contributing editor to Rolling Stone as well as writing for BuzzFeed, covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and previously worked for GQ magazine and Newsweek.

(Reporting and writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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