(Photo: Sue Ogrocki, AP)
Oklahoma City Thunder part owner Aubrey McClendon died in a single-car crash on Wednesday, the day after he was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on charges of conspiring to rig bids for oil and natural gas leases.
Police Capt. Paco Balderrama said McClendon, co-founder of Chesapeake Energy and a part-owner of the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder, was the only occupant in the vehicle when it slammed into a concrete bridge embankment shortly after 9 a.m.
"He pretty much drove straight into the wall," Balderrama said. "The information out there at the scene is that he went left of center, went through a grassy area right before colliding into the embankment. There was plenty of opportunity for him to correct and get back on the roadway and that didn't occur."
McClendon's death follows an announcement Tuesday that he had been indicted by a federal grand jury.
In a statement released Wednesday by the Thunder, chairman Clayton I. Bennett said:
"I am overcome with grief. Aubrey McClendon was a visionary community leader, a trusted business partner and a passionate member of the Thunder family. But more than anything, he was a brother and a dear friend. His love of his community and his desire to make Oklahoma a better place will forever inspire all of us. Louise and I offer our love and prayers to Katie and the McClendon family."
Balderrama says it's too early to say if the collision was intentional. He said McClendon was not wearing a seat belt and that he was driving faster than the 50 mph speed limit.
The Department of Justice said in a statement Tuesday that McClendon, 56, was suspected of orchestrating a scheme between two large energy companies, which are not named in the indictment, from December 2007 to March 2012. The companies would decide ahead of time who would win bids, with the winner then allocating an interest in the leases to the other company, according to the statement.
In a statement released Tuesday after his indictment, McClendon denied violating antitrust laws.
"The charge that has been filed against me today is wrong and unprecedented," McClendon said. "Anyone who knows me, my business record and the industry in which I have worked for 35 years, knows that I could not be guilty of violating any antitrust laws. All my life I have worked to create jobs in Oklahoma, grow its economy, and to provide abundant and affordable energy to all Americans. I am proud of my track record in this industry, and I will fight to prove my innocence and to clear my name."
Department of Justice spokesman Mark Abueg declined to comment on the impact McClendon's death would have on the case.
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