‘Loss of bright light’: Anne Heche declared ‘legally dead’ after car crash

Actor Anne Heche is brain dead, her spokeswoman said Friday, a week after she crashed her car into a Los Angeles home.

“While Anne died legally under California law, her heart is still beating, and she has not removed her life support so One Legacy can see if she is suitable for organ donation,” a Heche spokesperson said in a statement to NBC. News.

“We have lost a bright light, a kind and happiest soul, a loving mother and a loyal friend,” a statement on behalf of Heche’s family and friends said on Friday.

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“Anne will be sorely missed but she lived through her beautiful sons, her iconic work and her passionate advocacy. Her courage to always stand by her truth, spreading her message of love and acceptance, will continue to have a lasting impact.”

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

Anne Heche has been declared legally dead following the accident. Credit: AP

Anoxic injury occurs when the brain is cut off from oxygen, causing cell death. Heche is at the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital.

Heche drove to a house in the Mar Vista community in Los Angeles last Friday. The house suffered damage from the “major fire” sparked by the collision, said Brian Humphrey, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Footage of smoke rising from the house after Anne Heche’s car hit it. Credit: NBC Los Angeles

He had drugs in his system, and he was being investigated for possible driving under the influence, police said Thursday.

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

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

“This case is being investigated as a DUI traffic collision crime,” the statement said.

Anne Heche’s car after the ‘terrible’ accident. Credit: NBC Los Angeles

Heche landed his first major role in the soap opera “Another World,” playing Vicky Hudson and Marley Love in the early 1990s.

Later that decade, films like Donnie Brasco, Volcano, and I Know What You Did Last Summer helped propel his fame in Hollywood and beyond.

His television credits include Chicago PD and Men in Trees.

He met talk show host Ellen DeGeneres in 1997, when Vince Vaughn, his Return to Paradise co-star, introduced them to a restaurant in the Los Angeles area.

Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche in 1997. Credit: Brian K. Diggs/AP

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

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

Actress Anne Heche legally died after a traffic accident in Los Angeles. Credit: AP

When their three-year relationship ended in 2000, Heche was hospitalized after he was found wandering the rural areas of Fresno County, California, acting distraught and confused, authorities said.

Heche described his struggles with his mental health in his 2001 memoir, Call Me Crazy.

“I wanted to beat everyone,” he said of the book in an interview that year with Larry King. “I certainly know what has been written about me in the media. I, even though I was never diagnosed as crazy, I went crazy.”

Heche also wrote about his relationship with DeGeneres. She said it was a breakthrough as a famous same-sex romance but it cost her career a lot.

Heche said he couldn’t be hired for a role by a major studio for nearly a decade.

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

In a family statement earlier this week, Heche was described as having a “big heart” and as someone who “touches everyone he meets with a generous spirit.”

“More than her extraordinary talent, she sees spreading kindness and joy as her life’s work—especially moving the needle to receive your loved ones,” the statement said. “He will be remembered for his courageous honesty and greatly missed for his light.”

– With Tim Stelloh and Dennis Romero NBC

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