LOS ANGELES — New audio from the Los Angeles firefighters revealed that actress Anne Heche was trapped in her car for almost an hour after a fiery crash that led to her death last month, according to a published report.
The recordings, obtained by KNBC-TV from the Los Angeles Fire Department under the California Public Records Act, reveal that firefighters were unable to access Heche’s blue 2020 Mini Cooper for at least 20 minutes and could not pull it out of the burning building she hit for at least another 20 minutes.
Heche, 53, died from injuries she sustained when her vehicle crashed into a Los Angeles home on Aug. 5, according to the Los Angeles Times. According to KCBS-TV, the soap opera star was traveling at a high rate of speed when it went off the road at a T intersection and slammed into a two-story home in Mar Vista, setting the vehicle on fire.
Heche suffered an “anoxic” brain injury. She was declared brain dead but remained on life support for several days in order to donate her organs, her family said at the time.
It took 59 firefighters 65 minutes to fully contain and extinguish the blaze, the Times reported. According to KTTV, Heche was alone in the car at the time of the crash and was pulled out of the car by the Los Angeles Fire Department.
According to the recordings, the first LAFD engine arrived at the scene at 11:01 a.m. PDT, and within seconds dispatchers radioed a report that there was a person trapped in the car that had crashed into the house, KNBC reported.
Paramedics were directed to immediately treat a woman firefighters found inside the home, but it was the woman who lived there and not Heche, according to the television station.
“The patient that was identified initially was the person that was in the home,” Fields said.
At 11:18 a.m. one of the firefighters working on the fire radioed that there was no one else inside
Four minutes later, at 11:22 a.m., after overlapping radio messages from firefighters inside, one of the incident commanders began to ask again about the driver.
At 11:25 a.m. a firefighter who can be heard speaking through an oxygen mask replied and said he had found Heche.
“We have identified one patient, inaccessible at this time, (she is) pushed up against the floorboard,” according to KNBC.
Heche was pulled from the wreckage using heavy towing equipment around 11:49 a.m before being loaded into an ambulance for treatment, according to the television station.
Neighbor Lynne Bernstein, who has lived in his house since 1976, recalls how he and his fellow neighbors, identified as Dave and Gabriel, were able to talk to Heche moments after the crash, People reported in early August.
Bernstein told the magazine that Dave was able to get into the back of the Mini Cooper and speak to Heche.
“She responded that she wasn’t doing real well,” Bernstein told People. “He actually talked to her briefly. Yeah, he asked her to raise her hand or something ... if she was OK, and she said she couldn’t.”
Bernstein said the smoke made it difficult to see what was going on.
“We were having a hard time seeing and breathing,” Bernstein told People, adding that Gabriel began hosing down the fire while Dave tried to extract Heche from the car. “He (was) overcome by the smoke. So, he went to the back of the house to see if there was an alternative route, maybe we could get to her from the front of the vehicle,” Bernstein adds. “But the smoke, even on the backyard was pretty darn intense.”
LAFD Deputy Chief Richard fields said there was initial confusion about who was injured due to visibility issues.
“Given the heavy fire and smoke conditions, it wasn’t that you could clearly see into the vehicle or clearly be able to access it,” Fields told KNBC. “Heavy smoke conditions, heavy fire conditions, which makes it very difficult for us to just see each other on the inside of a working structure fire.”
Fields said it took about 30 minutes to fight the fire to the point where firefighters could attempt a rescue, the Times reported.
“I would imagine, just based on some of the very experienced officers that were initiating the firefight, that they made the best effort they could to try to identify that someone was in the vehicle,” Fields told the newspaper. “Our firefighters were doing everything.”
During the 1990s, Heche played opposite actors including Johnny Depp (“Donnie Brasco”) and Harrison Ford (“Six Days, Seven Nights”).
She recently had recurring roles on the network TV series “Chicago P.D.” and “All Rise,” and in 2020 was a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars.”
Heche was also known for her roles as Vicky Hudson and Marley Love in the soap opera “Another World” and won a Daytime Emmy Award in 1991, the Times reported.
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