It’s been nearly two decades since Rebecca Gayheart’s tragic car accident, but the actress still thinks about Jorge Cruz Jr., the 9-year-old boy who died after she accidentally hit with him with her car back in 2001.
“I had a very terrible accident happen. A 9-year-old child died. And, you know, everything changed from that and, you know, I still have trouble talking about it, obviously, so if I get emotional, I apologize,” the 47-year-old began on the Tuesday, May 21, episode of “The Only One in the Room” podcast. “And that, you know, changed me. And, luckily, I came out the other side and really positive things have happened in my life since then.”
Cruz Jr. died from injuries a day after the June 2001 accident. While Gayheart paid for the little boy’s funeral and settled a wrongful death suit filed by the his parents in 2002, she admitted on the podcast that she still struggles with the incident.
“I struggle with the ‘Why?’ still,” the Beverly Hills, 90210 actress 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.”
Gayheart added that she “spent about a year” after the accident trying to kill herself “by doing every self-destructive thing” she could do.
“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, noting that she had a great career, family and friends. “It just turned my world upside down and I lost faith in everything, like, I questioned God, like, ‘Why me? Why Jorge?’”
While Gayheart still asks herself those questions, she is in a better place now.
“Today, I am able to ponder those questions and still realize that I deserve to be happy,” she concluded. “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.”
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).