Actress and model Rebecca Gayheart is opening up about how she coped after a terrible tragedy in her life.
In 2001, the actress was in a car accident that took the life of a 9-year-old boy. That boy was Jorge Cruz Jr.
“I had a very terrible accident happen. A 9-year-old child died. And, you know, everything changed from that, and, I still have trouble talking about it,” revealed the 47-year-old actress in an interview with PEOPLE.
The story is a devastating one. On June 13, 2001, Gayheart was driving a vehicle owned by her Dusk Til Dawn 3 costar Marco Leonardi when she accidentally hit Cruz. The child was walking across the street in Los Angeles.
The young boy died as a result of his injuries the next day. Gayheart immediately paid the family $10,000 to pay for the funeral. Later, she settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the parents out of court.
The actress also had legal ramifications. The actress was sentenced to probation, a one-year suspension of her license, a $2,800 fine, and 750 hours of community service.
After the accident, the actress reveals that she had a hard time moving on emotionally. There were times when she wanted to die.
“I just didn’t want to live after that accident. That’s what it came down to. I couldn’t handle it at all. So I spent about a year just trying to kill myself, basically, by doing every self-destructive thing a person can do,” she said.
“I just didn’t understand; I didn’t understand any of it, like, I had led, you know, sort of a charmed life up until then, even though I grew up dirt poor."
She said that she questioned why this had happened: “It just turned my world upside down and I lost faith in everything, like, I questioned God, like, ‘Why me? Why Jorge?’”
In the 18 years since the accident, the actress, who was married to "Grey's Anatomy" star Eric Dane from 2004 until 2018, says she still thinks about what she could have done differently to prevent the tragedy.
“I struggle with the ‘Why?’ still,” she explained. “I still replay it in my head of, ‘Had I stopped at the gas station, maybe I wouldn’t have been on that street.’ You know, those things never go away. They stay with you forever and I did not cope very well after. Listen, I just didn’t want to live after that accident.”
Even in the face of that pain, she emphasizes the importance of remaining hopeful. She also said that she's gone on to have a happy and meaningful life.
“Today, I am able to ponder those questions and still realize that I deserve to be happy,” said the mother of two. “That I am meant to be on this planet and that I have a purpose and I’m making, living amends for that, even though it was an accident.”