Foremost Group CEO Angela Chao died after car went into Texas pond, sheriff says


Angela A. Chao hosts The New York City Opera Pre-Gala Celebration at a private residence in New York City on Oct. 21, 2010.

Patrick McMullan | Getty Images

Angela Chao, CEO of Foremost Group and the sister-in-law of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, died after her car went into a pond on a private ranch about 40 miles west of Austin, Texas, authorities said Friday.

Chao’s family on Wednesday announced she died in a car accident on Sunday, but did not disclose details of the incident at that time.

On Friday, the Blanco County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that on Saturday, it “responded to a possible water rescue on a private ranch located in Blanco County, TX.”

“On arrival Blanco County deputies along with Blanco County EMS and Fire recovered the body of Angela Chao from a pond on the ranch,” the statement said.

“EMS attempted emergency measures on Ms. Chao but she succumbed from being under the water,” the statement said. “Our preliminary investigation has determined this to be an unfortunate accident. The investigation is ongoing at this time,” the statement also said.

The name of the ranch, which is located in Johnson City, was not disclosed by the sheriff’s office.

Chao, a double Harvard graduate who became CEO of the dry bulk shipping company Foremost in 2018, was married to Jim Breyer, a venture capitalist from Austin who is part owner of the National Basketball Association’s Boston Celtics.

Chao previously served on the board of the Bank of China and as a director of the China State Shipbuilding Corporation.

She is the sister of Elaine Chao, who is married to McConnell, R-Ky. Chao served as Secretary of Transportation in former President Donald Trump’s administration and as Secretary of Labor in the administration of former President George W. Bush.

Blanco County EMS Chief Ben Oakley told CNBC in a prior interview that emergency personnel were called just after midnight Sunday to respond to a “water rescue” at a private property in Johnson City.

Oakley did not use the name of the victim of that rescue, citing privacy laws.

An ambulance arrived at 12:12 a.m. at the scene, where a car containing one person was “completely submerged” in a pond, estimated to be between 12 feet and 15 feet deep, Oakley said.

The woman in the car was “extricated from the vehicle,” and rescue workers tried to resuscitate her “for 43 minutes” without success, the chief said.

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Oakley said there was no indication of how the car ended up in the pond.

He declined to identify who called rescue workers or who owned the property, saying that was information he could not release.

Chao’s father, James Chao, on Wednesday said her family was “heartbroken” over her death. The family did not give any information about her cause of death, other than saying it was the result of a car accident.

James Chao founded Foremost Group in 1964.

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.

Chao previously was married to investment banker Bruce Wasserstein, who died in 2009, the same year they wed.

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