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‘Unfortunate accident’ death of Mitch McConnell’s billionaire sister-in-law now under criminal investigation

Angela Chao Mitch McConnell sister in law accident death

The death of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s sister-in-law is now being investigated as a criminal matter, days after he announced he would step down from the top Republican role.

Billionaire shipping CEO Angela Chao, 50, the younger sister of McConnell’s wife Elaine, died inside a Tesla which became submerged in a pond on a ranch in Johnson City, near Austin, Texas, on February 11, and authorities initially described the incident as an “unfortunate accident”.

But on Thursday the Blanco County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton saying: “This incident was not a typical accident”.

“Although the preliminary investigation indicated this was an unfortunate accident, the Sheriff’s Office is still investigating this accident as a criminal matter until they have sufficient evidence to rule out criminal activity,” the letter said.

But the Sherrif’s office said audio and video evidence, police reports, and 911 logs would not be released until the probe was complete.

“Releasing the reports, videos and other information prior to the completion of the investigation would interfere with the investigation and possible prosecution of this matter,” the letter said.

The ranch where Chao died was owned by a trust linked to her venture capitalist husband Jim Breyer, who she married in 2012 after the death of her first husband, Bruce Wasserstein.

Wasserstein, a investment banker, died in 2009 after being hospitalised with an irregular heartbeat, just months after they were married.

Angela Chao Texas death criminal investigation Mitch McConnell
Angela Chao and Jim Breyer at an event in Davos in 2017 (Sabine Brauer Photos/Goran Nitschke for Hubert Burda Media)

Chao was previously on the board of the Bank of China and was a director of the China State Shipbuilding Corporation. She became CEO of Foremost Group in 2018, while Breyer owns Breyer Capital and has made extensive China-linked investments.

An initial firefighter’s report about Chao’s death revealed emergency services arrived at the ranch just before 12.30am, 27 minutes after they were called.

They found a car “completely submerged” with one person inside. Unable to tow the vehicle out of the water, firefighters entered the water and broke into the car, pulling Chao to the surface. She was given “advanced life support” for 45 minutes but could not be saved.

McConnell, 82, the longest-serving US Senate leader in history, announced last week he would step down from the position in November, citing Chao’s death as a factor.

He had a turbulent relationship with Donald Trump, and critics have described him as a “Republican in name only” and accused him of failing to support Trump due to the ex-president’s opposition to the Washington political establishment and “deep state”.

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