L.A. County coroner reveals Anne Heche's cause of death

·3 min read
MAMMOTH LAKES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 29: Anne Heche poses for portrait at 3rd Annual Mammoth Film Festival Portrait Studio – Saturday on February 29, 2020 in Mammoth Lakes, California. (Photo by Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for Mammoth Media Institute)
"Another World" actor Anne Heche died last Friday, a week after her car crash in Mar Vista. (Michael Bezjian / Getty Images for Mammoth Media Institute)

The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner's office on Wednesday ruled Anne Heche's death an accident, days after the "Another World" actor's death at 53 and nearly two weeks after her fiery car crash in Mar Vista.

Heche died from smoke "inhalation and thermal injuries," the coroner's office said. She also suffered a "sternal fracture due to blunt trauma" — an injury that's commonly caused when the chest strikes the steering wheel during a car wreck.

Heche was hospitalized Aug. 5 with severe burns after crashing her car into a house in the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles. The accident caused the home to catch fire.

A 911 call published Tuesday by TMZ recounted the moments shortly after Heche's crash. A Mar Vista resident told police that a car going "very fast" made it "10 feet into the house" and into a second room. Fifty-nine firefighters arrived at the scene and extinguished the flames in 65 minutes.

Shortly after the accident, Heche became unconscious, then slipped into a coma, her representative said days after the crash. Heche had sustained a serious brain injury due to a lack of oxygen to her brain.

She was declared brain dead last Thursday and legally dead Friday. Her body remained on life support to preserve her organs for donation until Sunday, when a recipient was identified.

Before her death, a law-enforcement source confirmed to The Times that Heche had been under the influence of cocaine when she crashed her car in Mar Vista. Fentanyl was also found in blood taken from the actor at the hospital, but it was unclear whether that was given to her as a painkiller after the accident.

The LAPD dismissed the DUI investigation against the actor on Saturday.

“Any information or records that have been requested prior to this turn of events will still be collected as they arrive as a matter of formalities and included in the overall case,” Officer Norma Eisenman said in a statement. “When a person suspected of a crime expires, we do not present for filing consideration.”

A Daytime Emmy winner, Heche was known for her work on the NBC soap drama "Another World" and in several high-profile 1990s films including “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” “Donnie Brasco,” “Wag the Dog” and “Volcano.”

She was also known for her norms-busting three-year relationship with Ellen DeGeneres from 1997 to 2000. The comic sent "all my love" to the actor's family upon her death.

The Ohio native was married to cameraman Coleman "Coley" Laffoon from 2001 to 2007. Along with DeGeneres, director James Gunn, Heche’s ex-boyfriend James Tupper and the Daytime Emmys mourned Heche on Friday.

She is survived by her sons, Homer Laffoon and Atlas Tupper.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.