Five days after her death, actress Anne Heche‘s cause of death has been determined. She died from inhalation and thermal injuries from the smoke and heat caused by her fiery car crash into a house in Mar Vista, California, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office revealed on Wednesday, August 17, according to case information provided by the L.A. Medical Examiner and Coroner’s Office obtained by Closer.
A secondary cause of death was listed as sternal fracture due to blunt trauma, meaning her chest struck the car’s steering wheel or airbag during the crash.
It took firefighters more than an hour to extract Anne from her burning Mini Cooper on August 5, which caught the surrounding home on fire. She was transported to a burn ward in Lost Hills, California, where she received treatment for her extensive injuries. Anne never regained consciousness after lapsing into a coma.
After six days in the hospital, her family and friends shared the heartbreaking news on August 11 that the Men in Trees star was not going to pull through. “Unfortunately, due to her accident, Anne Heche suffered a severe anoxic brain injury and remains in a coma, in critical condition. She is not expected to survive,” they revealed through a representative.
“It has long been her choice to donate her organs and she is being kept on life support to determine if any are viable,” the statement added. Anne was declared brain dead on August 12, though her heart was still beating, and was not immediately taken off life support to give OneLegacy Foundation time to find recipients who would be an organ match. Anne’s spokesperson said the actress was “peacefully taken off life support” on August 14, after a compatible match was found to receive her organs.
Anne left behind two children: her eldest son, Homer Laffoon 20, whom she shared with ex-husband Coleman Laffoon, and Atlas Tupper, 13, whom she shared with her former partner of 10 years and Men in Trees costar James Tupper.
Homer paid an emotional tribute to his late mother. “My brother Atlas and I lost our Mom,” he said a statement to People, adding, “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.”
“Today we lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend,” a rep for Anne told People on behalf of her loved ones upon her death.
“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,” the statement added.