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"I didn't want to live anymore." In 2001, Rebecca Gayheart killed a young boy in a car crash.

CONTENT WARNING: This post deals with suicide and may be triggering for some readers. Please contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 if you’re struggling with symptoms of mental illness.

“I still struggle with the ‘Why?’… I still replay it in my head.”

Eighteen years ago, Beverley Hills 90210 actress Rebecca Gayheart was driving through LA one afternoon in a friend’s Jeep Cherokee when she struck nine-year-old boy Jorge Cruz Jr. as he crossed the road on his way home from school.

Rebecca Gayheart. Image: Getty.

According to reports, he was jaywalking, and while the cars in front of Gayheart's had stopped to let him pass, she, not seeing him, had swerved into the left lane.

Cruz Jr. died in hospital the following day.

Police interviewed Gayheart at the scene of the accident, but she was not arrested as she was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

In court months later, Gayheart pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter. She was sentenced to probation, had her license suspended for one year, was fined US$2,800, and underwent 750 hours of community service.

Outside the courtroom, her lawyer told reporters, "It was the worst thing that could ever have happened to her, killing a child... She feels terrible," according to the LA Times. 

Gayheart paid Cruz's family US$10,000 for funeral expenses and offered to pay for grief counselling. She later privately settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by his parents which cited her negligence as the reason for their son's death.

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"After a certain point, I think they didn’t want to have contact with me, which I completely understand,” she told People in 2005. “I can’t imagine how they feel. They are in my prayers every day.”

Now, almost two decades on, Gayheart - who played Toni Marchette, the wife the late Luke Perry's Dylan McKay in 90210 - said she still can't escape the flashbacks of the tragic afternoon.

Luke Perry and Rebecca Gayheart in 90210. Image via Fox.

She spoke of the 2001 car accident and its enormous impact on her life on The Only One in the Room podcast this week.

"I had a very terrible accident happen. A nine-year-old child died. And, you know, everything changed from that," she told host Laura Cathcart Robbins. "I still have trouble talking about it."

"I struggle with the 'Why?' still," she said. "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."

The accident, she said, almost caused a second fatality.

"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."

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During her darkest moments, she felt lost, confused, and hopeless.

"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 added. "It just turned my world upside down and I lost faith in everything, like, I questioned God, like, 'Why me? Why Jorge?'"

Three years after the accident, Gayheart married Grey's Anatomy star Eric Dane, who she met on the set of Gideon’s Crossing and Charmed.

Rebecca Gayheart and Eric Dane. Image: Getty.

In a 2005 interview with People, she said of Dane: “I feel lucky I found him. He definitely appeared in my life at the right time.”

The pair have two daughters; Billie, nine, and Georgia, seven, but split last year citing "irreconcilable differences".

Since 90210, Gayheart has appeared in films Scream 2 and Urban Legend, and made appearances on several television programs including Ugly Betty and CSI Miami.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, please seek professional help and contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. If someone is in immediate danger, call 000 immediately.

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