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Foremost Group CEO Angela Chao was intoxicated during fatal car accident in Texas pond: police

Angela Chao attends the AFI Awards Luncheon at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on January 12, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.

Frazer Harrison | Getty Images

Foremost Group CEO Angela Chao was intoxicated last month when she accidentally drove her Tesla X SUV in reverse over a wall into a pond on the Texas ranch she owned with her husband, billionaire venture capitalist Jim Breyer, according to a police report released Wednesday.

Chao drowned after friends and rescue workers tried without success to get the 50-year-old shipping executive out of the submerged vehicle.

That desperate effort is detailed in the new report, which concluded she died from an “unfortunate accident.”

A toxicology report later showed that Chao had a blood-alcohol concentration of .233, the Blanco County Sheriff’s Office said in its report.

That level is nearly three times the legal limit to drive on public roads in Texas, and one that can lead to impaired behavior and other side effects.

Surveillance video from the exterior of a guest house on the ranch shows her walking “unsteadily to her vehicle” that night, according to the report.

Chao was the sister-in-law of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who is married to her sister, Elaine Chao, a former head of the U.S. Labor and Transportation departments in separate GOP administrations.

Angela Chao was hosting seven close female friends at the guest house at her 4,500-acre JW Ranch in Johnson City on Feb. 10, a day after the group attended a concert by the rapper Pitbull in nearby Austin, the police report said.

Angela Chao and Jim Breyer arrive at the Ninth Breakthrough Prize Ceremony at Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on April 15, 2023 in Los Angeles, California

Tommaso Boddi | Getty Images

Most if not all of the women were from New York and had attended Harvard Business School with Chao. Breyer reportedly was in Dubai, while the couple’s young child was staying at the main house on the ranch.

The women had shared dinner and drinks at the guest house before Chao left at around 11:30 p.m. to make the approximately one-mile drive to the main house.

Investigators later determined that Chao’s Tesla had struck a retaining wall near the bond, separating two large limestone blocks at least three feet high and weighing up to 500 pounds, with the SUV becoming “air born after striking the wall then landed and rolled into the pond,” the report said.

Video shows the car first lurching forward toward a wooden barrier, and then it “reverses turning left without stopping and over the top of the limestone block wall.”

Minutes after she left, Chao called one of her friends, Amber Landeau-Kienan, and calmly told her that “she was in the ‘lake’ (pond),” the report said.

Kienan went outside and saw the Tesla in the pond, which is about 30 feet from the guest house.

“Chao, who is still on the phone with Keinan tells Keinan in a [calm] voice her feet are under water,” the report said. “Keinan tells Chao to get out of the vehicle. In a calm voice, Chao informs Kienan she is not able to get out of the vehicle.”

“Chao told Keinan the water was rising and she was going to die, and said, ‘I love you’ to Keinan prior to the vehicle going under water.”

Keinan told police the call lasted about eight minutes, and that she got into a kayak and paddled toward the Tesla while another “ran to the pond and swam in the pond to where the Tesla was submerging,” the report said. “Victoria then claimed on top of the Tesla and attempted to locate Ms. Chao.”

A third friend, Heela Yang Tsuzuki, called 911, the report said.

Rescue workers quickly responded to the scene.

One sheriff’s deputy wrote that when he arrived with another deputy he saw the ranch manager “standing on top of the fully submerged vehicle,” about 25 yards from shore, while Kienan paddled toward shore.

The ranch manager told the deputies the rear passenger door of the Tesla was open, the report said.

Both deputies entered the pond and tried repeatedly to locate Chao through the back door, “but were unable to,” the report said.

“During our time there were several females screaming at us [frantically] on the bank,” the deputy wrote. “They advised that they knew she was in the water due to Chao calling them and advising that the vehicle was filling up with water.”

The deputy then got a breaker bar from Blanco County firefighters and swam back to try to break the windshield, but was unable to do so.

Two medics then swam out to help him break a side window on the SUV, and “I swam down and felt a hand,” the deputy wrote.

Chao was then pulled from the vehicle, and the medics then swam back to shore with her and “started performing CPR.”

She was pronounced dead at 1:40 a.m. on Feb. 11.

Days after the accident, on Feb. 15, Texas Ranges and FBI agents met with the Blanco County Sheriff’s Office, which was the lead investigative agency in the case.

After reviewing photos from the scene and videos, as well as reports, the Texas Rangers and FBI “felt this incident was nothing more than an unfortunate accident.”

Angela Chao became CEO of Foremost Group in 2018. The company was founded by her father James Chao in 1964.

A spokesperson for James Chao and his family on Wednesday said, “Angela’s passing was a terrible tragedy, and words cannot describe the family’s profound grief.”

“The family is grateful for the first responders and friends who tried so hard to save her,” the spokesperson said.

Angela Chao had held board positions on the American Bureau of Shipping Council, Harvard Business School’s Board of Dean’s Advisors and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Her first husband, the investment banker Bruce Wasserstein, died months after they married in 2009.

Breyer is part owner of the National Basketball Association’s Boston Celtics, He previously served on the boards of Facebook, Walmart, Marvel Entertainment, News Corp. and Dell.

Read more CNBC politics coverage

McConnell announced in late February that he would step down as the Republican Senate leader at the end of the year.

McConnell cited Angela Chao’s death in his statement on the Senate floor revealing his plan to give up the leadership position.

“This has been a particularly difficult time for my family,” McConnell said.

“We tragically lost Elaine’s younger sister Angela, just a few weeks ago,” he said. “When you lose a loved one, particularly at a young age, there’s a certain introspection that accompanies the grieving process.”

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