Neither the Los Angeles Police Department nor coroner's officials could immediately confirm whether Hastings was the victim of a single-car crash that occurred about 4:25 a.m. in the 600 block of North Highland Avenue. Police officials said it was the only vehicle fatality reported Tuesday morning in the city of Los Angeles.
The vehicle crossed a median, struck a tree and burst into flames in the Hancock Park area, LAPD Officer Christopher No said. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.
Coroner's officials said they could not immediately identify the victim, saying the body was burned beyond recognition. Without identification or next of kin, neither the LAPD nor the coroner's department could officially identify the body found in the vehicle.
But in a statement released Tuesday afternoon, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith confirmed that Hastings died earlier in an L.A. car crash, saying his team was "shocked and devastated by the news."
"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," Smith said. "He wrote stories that would otherwise have gone unwritten, and without him there are great stories that will go untold."
Hastings, who covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is perhaps best known for his Rolling Stone profile of McChrystal. Hastings also worked for GQ and Newsweek and wrote a book about his fiancee, who was killed in Iraq in 2007.
A witness described the accident to KTLA News: “I was just coming northbound on Highland and I seen a car, like, going really fast and all of a sudden I seen it jackknife,” Luis Cortez said. “I just seen parts fly everywhere, and I slammed on my brakes and stopped and tried to call 911."