Angela Chao Reportedly Intoxicated Before Fatal Tesla Car Crash Into Pond


Police reports describing the fatal car crash that killed Angela Chao, Foremost Group CEO and sister-in-law to Sen. Mitch McConnell, revealed she had a blood alcohol content nearly three times the legal driving limit when she drove her Tesla Model X SUV into a pond and became trapped inside despite hours of rescue efforts from local first responders, multiple outlets reported.

Key Facts

A toxicology screening ordered as part of the investigation into the Feb. 10 crash in Texas found Chao had a blood alcohol level of .233, about triple the state’s legal driving limit of .08, the Austin American-Statesman first reported.

The toxicology report’s release marks the end of the investigation into Chao’s death, Blanco County sheriff’s office chief deputy Robert Woodring told the Statesman, which sent shockwaves through political and business circles, and led to concerns over the safety of some Tesla vehicles.

Chao had dinner with friends at a guest lodge on a private ranch outside of Austin and was meant to be driving to the other side of the property when she reversed her Tesla Model X SUV over an embankment and into a stock pond, the New York Times reported, where she remained stuck in the car as friends, first responders and local authorities tried to get her out.

Rescuers weren’t able to bring Chao’s body out of the pond for almost two hours, according to the Times, and on-shore attempts to revive her were unsuccessful.

The death of Chao, who the Wall Street Journal described as “one of the world’s most powerful women,” has led to scrutiny of Tesla vehicles, their allegedly confusing gearshift design and the use of the use of laminated glass in the windows of modern-day cars, which is advertised as “unbreakable.”

Tesla did not immediately respond to Forbes’ request for comment Thursday.

Big Number

400. That’s how many people die in North American motor vehicle submersions annually, the Journal reported.

Key Background

Chao, 50, was the daughter of Ruth Mulan Chu Chao and James S. C. Chao, who founded the Foremost Group, a global dry goods shipping company. She was CEO of the company at the time of her death and served on several prestigious boards, including the Harvard Business School Board of Dean’s Advisors, Chairman’s Council of the Metropolitan Museum of the Arts and as an Advisory Board Member of the Metropolitan Opera. She had one child, a 3-year-old son, with her husband, venture capitalist Jim Breyer (a billionaire and the world’s 1,782nd-richest person as of Thursday). Her sister, Elaine Chao, was the U.S. Secretary of Labor and Secretary of Transportation under the George W. Bush and Donald Trump administrations, respectively. Elaime Chao is married to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.


Chao’s death reignited concerns around the gearshifts used in Tesla vehicles, which have been criticized for allegedly being confusing and easy to shift incorrectly. Chao reportedly told friends she’d mixed up the drive and reverse gears several times in her car, and Business Insider reported there have been a dozen consumer complaints made about the issue to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Seven complaints said the gear shift was confusing, Insider reported, and the other five said cars had spontaneously switched between drive and reverse without warning.

Further Reading

NytimesAngela Chao Was Intoxicated When She Died in Car Wreck, Police Report Shows

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