Neighbors in Los Angeles are describing to PEOPLE the aftermath of Friday’s fiery car accident that left actress Anne Heche hospitalized, including the actions they took to help rescue her and the resident at the home she crashed into.
Heche, 53, suffered burns from the incident — which occurred in the neighborhood of Mar Vista — and is currently intubated, PEOPLE confirmed on Saturday. A rep for the star told PEOPLE she is in “stable condition.”
Lynne Bernstein, who has lived in his house in nearby Venice with his wife Natalie since 1976, recalls how he and his fellow neighbors, Dave and Gabriel, were able to talk to Heche moments after she crashed into the residence.
According to Bernstein, after the vehicle drove “almost all the way through” the house and “almost immediately” caught fire, Dave was able to get into the back of the car and speak to Heche. “She responded that she wasn’t doing really well,” Bernstein says.
“He actually talked to her briefly,” he notes. “Yeah, he asked her to raise her hand or something … if she was okay and she said she couldn’t.”
Bernstein says if they were able to free her from the car before the Los Angeles Fire Department arrived, “maybe she wouldn’t be suffering the way she is now.”
The LAFD responded to an emergency call around 10:56 am local time, during which it took 59 firefighters around 65 minutes to extinguish the flame and extract the driver, according to a release.
“We were having a hard time seeing and breathing,” Bernstein says of the smoke that filled the house, noting that Gabriel began hosing down the fire as Dave tried to extract Heche from the car.
“Hey [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 in the backyard, was pretty darn intense. ”
Bernstein says that the resident of the home “was in shock” as she saw the three men in the house before noticing the vehicle. “I don’t think she got what was going on. She said, ‘What happened? What happened?'” he recalls.
He adds: “She was extremely fortunate. So were the dogs and her turtle.”
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Bernstein also considers Heche fortunate to be alive.
“We were just looking inside, going ‘How could you survive that?’ Because we had a hard time breathing even outside the house,” he says. “So, somebody was watching out over her, I guess. I mean, as seriously injured as she may be.”
Witnesses told TMZ that Heche first crashed into a garage of an apartment complex before she reversed and sped off, colliding with the nearby home shortly after.
Driving on Preston Way, Heche reportedly ran a stop sign at the Walgrove intersection and drove through some large privacy bushes before the car rested inside the house, according to KTLA.
Another source tells PEOPLE: “She just peeled through [the stop sign]. I was like, ‘Oh my God, that person’s going to kill somebody.’ ”
Los Angeles authorities are still investigating the incident.
As news broke of the accident, many of Heche’s fans showered social media with support for the star. “Her family and friends ask for your thoughts and prayers and to respect her privacy during this difficult time,” Heche’s rep told PEOPLE.
Actor James Tupper also sent love to Heche, whom he was with for more than 10 years before their split in January 2018.
“Thoughts and prayers for this lovely woman, actress and mother tonight Anne Heche 💔,” he wrote on Instagram, captioning a photo of Heche and the 13-year-old son Atlas they share together. “We love you.”
Heche is also mom to son Homer, 20, from her marriage to Coley Laffoon. Her ex-boyfriend Thomas Jane offers his “thoughts and prayers” to the Daily Mailcrediting Heche as “one of the true talents of her generation.”
The actress has remained busy in recent months, with several projects in the works. In June, she wrapped on Lifetime’s Girl in Room 13, set to premiere this fall. She will also star opposite Dermot Mulroney in the upcoming horror thriller Full Ridehas a recurring role in All Rise on OWN, and is premiering on Sam Levinson and The Weekend’s HBO show Idol.
She recently starred in the Peter Facinelli-directed psychological thriller The Vanished for Netflix and Quiver’s tornado thriller 13 Minutes. Listeners can hear her on her podcast, Better Together with Anne & Heather. She’s also writing her second book.