Angela Chao Was Intoxicated When She Drove Tesla Into Pond, Police Say

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Angela Chao, the chief executive of a shipping company and sister-in-law to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), was intoxicated when she accidentally reversed her Tesla into a pond on her Texas ranch last month, according to a police report released Wednesday.

A postmortem toxicology test found that Chao had a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.233 when she died, nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08 for a person to operate a motor vehicle in the state of Texas.

Though the report, released by the Blanco County Sheriff’s Office, concludes that the 50-year-old’s death was an “unfortunate accident”—belying earlier fears of foul play sparked by reports of a criminal investigation—it also paints a chilling picture of her final moments.

Chao backed into the pond shortly before midnight, after having had dinner with a group of friends at a guest lodge on the ranch, which she owns with her husband, the venture capitalist Jim Breyer. She then called a friend, telling her “in a calm voice” that she was trapped in the car and that the water was rising, according to the report, which details the eight-minute conversation the pair had.

Chao also told the friend “I love you” just before the vehicle was submerged underwater, the report said.

The friend then got into a kayak and paddled out to try and rescue Chao, with another person swimming out to the vehicle. A third person back on land called 911, and first responders arrived on the scene about 17 minutes later.

Sheriff’s deputies and a firefighter waded into the pond, struggling to pull Chao out as a group of her friends “[screamed] frantically.” They eventually used tools to break a side window and grab her around 12:56 a.m. She was brought back to shore, with emergency medical personnel delivering life-saving measures for the next 43 minutes. She was pronounced dead at 1:40 a.m.

The report was first obtained by the Austin American-Statesman.

Chao became chair and CEO of Foremost Group, a company founded by her father, in 2018. Her sister, Elaine Chao, served as secretary of transportation in the Trump administration and is married to Minority Leader McConnell.

A spokesperson for Chao’s family said Wednesday, “Angela’s passing was a terrible tragedy, and words cannot describe the family’s profound grief.” They added that the family was “grateful” for the efforts to save her.

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