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Anne Heche is brain dead after fiery crash into home, spokesperson says

NBC News logo NBC News 8/13/2022 Diana Dasrath and Tim Stelloh and Dennis Romero
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LOS ANGELES — Actor Anne Heche is brain-dead, her spokesperson said Friday, a week after she crashed her car into a home in Los Angeles.

"While Anne is legally dead according to California law, her heart is still beating, and she has not been taken off life support so that One Legacy can see if she is a match for organ donation," Heche's spokesperson said in a statement to NBC News.

"We have lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend," a statement on behalf of Heche's family and friends said Friday.

"Anne will be deeply missed but she lives on through her beautiful sons, her iconic body of work, and her passionate advocacy. Her bravery for always standing in her truth, spreading her message of love and acceptance, will continue to have a lasting impact." 

Heche's son, Homer Laffoon, weighed in Friday afternoon by declaring in a statement that he and his brother, Atlas, have lost their mother.

He thanked the "thousands of friends, family, and fans made their hearts known to me" following the crash.

Laffoon, whose father is Hollywood camera operator Coleman 'Coley' Laffoon, expressed his love for Heche and said, “After six days of almost unbelievable emotional swings, I am left with a deep, wordless sadness."

"Hopefully my mom is free from pain and beginning to explore what I like to imagine as her eternal freedom," the son said.

On Monday, Heche, 53, was in a coma and in “extreme” condition after suffering an anoxic brain injury, her representative said.

Anoxic injuries occur when the brain is cut off from oxygen, causing cell death. Heche was in the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital.

Heche's spokesperson said by text Friday that determining which of her organs could be used for transplantation could happen anytime Saturday through Tuesday. The determination would trigger donation, and then a move to end life support.

Heche careened into a home in the Mar Vista community of Los Angeles last Friday. The home sustained damage from the “heavy fire” sparked by the collision, said Brian Humphrey, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

She had drugs in her system, and she was being investigated for possibly driving under the influence, police said Thursday.


Video: Anne Heche declared legally dead at 53 after fiery car crash (TODAY)

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“In preliminary testing, the blood draw revealed the presence of drugs,” Los Angeles police said in a statement.

Police could not “comment right now on presence of cocaine, fentanyl or alcohol at this time,” they said Thursday. “That will be determined by the second test.”

“The case is being investigated as felony DUI traffic collision,” the statement said.

On Friday night, police said they would not be investigating the crash further.

Heche landed her first notable role on the soap opera “Another World,” portraying Vicky Hudson and Marley Love into the early 1990s.

Later that decade, films such as “Donnie Brasco,” “Volcano” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” helped propel her fame inside Hollywood and beyond.

Her television credits included “Chicago P.D.” and “Men in Trees.”

She met talk show host Ellen DeGeneres in 1997, when Vince Vaughn, her co-star in “Return to Paradise,” introduced them at a Los Angeles-area restaurant.

Heche and DeGeneres became romantically involved in a relationship that Heche said was groundbreaking for the time because of the global attention they received as Hollywood stars in a same-sex romance.

“My story is a story that created change in the world, moved the needle for equal rights forward, when I fell in love with Ellen DeGeneres,” she said in a taped segment that year for the show “Dancing With the Stars.”

When their three-year relationship ended in 2000, Heche was hospitalized after she was found wandering in a rural area of Fresno County, California, acting disoriented and confused, authorities said.

Heche described her struggles with her mental health in her 2001 memoir, “Call Me Crazy.”

“I wanted to beat everybody else to the punch,” she said about the book in an interview that year with Larry King. “I certainly know what’s been written about me in the press. I, although I was never diagnosed as being crazy, I went crazy.”

Heche also wrote about her relationship with DeGeneres. She said it was groundbreaking as a high-profile, same-sex romance but that it cost her career dearly.

Heche said she could not get hired for a role by a major studio for nearly a decade.

Later, she married Coley Laffoon, and the couple had a son before they divorced. She had another son in 2009 with actor James Tupper, her co-star in “Men in Trees”; they separated.

In a family statement earlier in the week, Heche was described as having a "huge heart" and as someone who "touched everyone she met with her generous spirit."

"More than her extraordinary talent, she saw spreading kindness and joy as her life’s work ⁠— especially moving the needle for acceptance of who you love," the statement said. "She will be remembered for her courageous honesty and dearly missed for her light."

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