Anne Heche, Six Days Seven Nights and Men in Trees star, dies at 53 after car crash

Anne Heche, the actress who rose to prominence on the soap opera Another World and went on to star in such films as Six Days Seven Nights, Donnie Brasco, Wag the Dog, and My Friend Dahmer, has died at 53 after being involved in a fiery single-car crash in Los Angeles last week.

"Today we lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend," reads a statement released to PEOPLE on behalf of Heche's family and friends. "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 had remained on life support after being declared "legally dead" in order to allow OneLegacy Foundation enough time to find organ recipients who will be a match. A match was identified and she was taken off life support on Aug. 14.

Heche had been in a coma after crashing her car into a residence in the Mar Vista neighborhood on Aug. 5, causing the vehicle and the home to burst into flames.

A representative told EW days after the crash that the actress was unconscious and in "extreme critical condition" with "a significant pulmonary injury requiring mechanical ventilation and burns that require surgical intervention."

The actress, who had suffered a severe anoxic brain injury during the incident, was being treated at the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital in California and not expected to live, her representative said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE Thursday evening on behalf of her friends and family.

Born May 25, 1969, in Aurora, Ohio, Heche first made a name for herself portraying Vicky Hudson and Marley Love on Another World, for which she won a Daytime Emmy and two Soap Opera Digest Awards. Her prime-time television debut came in a 1991 episode of Murphy Brown, but it wasn't until 1993 that she landed her first feature-film role, in Disney's The Adventures of Huck Finn, opposite Elijah Wood.

Anne Heche
Anne Heche

Maarten de Boer/NBC/NBCUniversal/Getty Anne Heche

Heche appeared in a string of made-for-TV movies in the early 1990s — the most notable of which was the HBO anthology If These Walls Could Talk, with Demi Moore and Cher — before graduating to several high-profile films in the late '90s. They included the crime drama Donnie Brasco, the disaster movie Volcano, the political satire Wag the Dog (with Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman), the slasher flick I Know What You Did Last Summer, the action-comedy Six Days Seven Nights (opposite Harrison Ford), and the thriller Return to Paradise.

From 1997 to 2000, Heche famously dated comedian and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres. At the time, Hollywood observers speculated that couple's relationship could harm their careers. Heche later told EW that she lost her passion for acting during this time "because it created a lot of conflict with Ellen."

However, Heche continued to star in a number of indie films and television projects, earning an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for Gracie's Choice. She also branched out into stage work, making her Broadway debut in Proof in 2002 and earning a Tony nomination for her role in Twentieth Century in 2004.

Heche's other screen credits included Ally McBeal, Hung, Chicago P.D.Quantico, All Rise, Dancing With the Stars, The Vanished, Psycho, and 13 Minutes. She had several projects in the works before her death, including Lifetime's Girl in Room 13, the horror movie Full Ride, and Sam Levinson and the Weeknd's HBO show Idol.

Anne Heche and Harrison Ford in 'Six Days Seven Nights'
Anne Heche and Harrison Ford in 'Six Days Seven Nights'

Buena Vista/courtesy Everett Collection Anne Heche and Harrison Ford in 'Six Days Seven Nights'

Heche was open about her struggles with mental health, revealing in her 2001 memoir, Call Me Crazy, that she spent the first three decades of her life suffering from mental illness, which she said was triggered by sexual abuse at the hands of her father, Donald Heche.

Heche told Barbara Walters in 2001 that she had recovered from her struggles, saying she "was raised in a crazy family and it took 31 years to get the crazy out of me," and that she "could not be more elated" with her life.

Heche is survived by her sons Atlas Tupper, 13 (whom she had with James Tupper), and Homer Laffoon, 20 (whom she had with Coleman Laffoon).

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