Police say Aubrey McClendon's car burst into flames upon impact, killing him instantly

By Chris Harris
March 02, 2016 05:20 PM

On Wednesday, less than 24 hours after being indicted on charges that he conspired to rig bids on oil and natural gas leases, the former CEO for Oklahoma-based oil and gas giant Chesapeake Energy died in a fiery single-car crash, PEOPLE confirms.

An Oklahoma City Police Department spokeswoman tells PEOPLE Aubrey McClendon, 56, was driving his 2013 Chevy Tahoe at a “high rate of speed” Wednesday morning when the vehicle left the roadway, colliding head-on with a wall.

Police believe McClendon died instantly, but claim it is too early to tell if the accident was intentional. (McClendon was part-owner of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.)

“We need to wait for the results of his autopsy before we can comment on motivation,” the spokeswoman says. “The accident could have been caused by a medical episode.”

Photos from the accident scene indicate McClendon’s car burst into flames upon impact, the spokeswoman says. The accident is still under investigation, she says.

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According to Tuesday’s indictment, McClendon allegedly orchestrated a conspiracy between two large oil and gas companies to not bid against each other for the purchase of certain oil and natural gas leases in northwest Oklahoma.

During this alleged conspiracy, which ran from December 2007 to March 2012, authorities say McClendon and his alleged co-conspirators would decide ahead of time who would win the leases. The winning bidder would then allegedly allocate an interest in the leases to the other company.

“While serving as CEO of a major oil and gas company, the defendant formed and led a conspiracy to suppress prices paid to leaseholders in northwest Oklahoma,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer in a statement. “His actions put company profits ahead of the interests of leaseholders entitled to competitive bids for oil and gas rights on their land. Executives who abuse their positions as leaders of major corporations to organize criminal activity must be held accountable for their actions.”