Lisa Lopes: Evan Agostini/ImageDirect
Gary Susman
April 26, 2002 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Lisa ”Left Eye” Lopes, the eccentric and volatile rapper of multiplatinum R&B trio TLC, died Thursday in a car crash in Honduras. Lopes, who owned a vacation home in the Central American country, was driving a Mitsubishi SUV outside the coastal town of La Ceiba, where, a TLC publicist said, she was volunteering at a child welfare center. Around 5 p.m. on Thursday, she flipped the vehicle three times (investigators speculate that she was speeding). She was taken to a local hospital, where she died of her injuries. Her seven passengers, all Americans and believed to be fellow volunteers, were also hospitalized, but Lopes was the only fatality.

The Philadelphia-born Lopes, who was a month shy of her 31st birthday, had enjoyed a decade of success with the Grammy-winning trio, along with singers Tionne ”T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda ”Chilli” Thomas. They were one of the best-selling female groups ever, known for such hits as ”Waterfalls,” ”Unpretty,” ”Creep,” and ”No Scrubs.” TLC released its last album, ”FanMail,” in 1999, but after a long hiatus, had reunited late last year to begin recording a fourth record. ”We had all grown up together and were as close as a family,” Watkins and Thomas said in a statement Friday. ”Today we have truly lost our sister.”

Lopes may have been just as well known for her often wild and erratic personal life as for her music. In 1994, she was sentenced to five years probation and fined $10,000 for burning down the $1.3 million Georgia mansion she shared with her boyfriend, NFL receiver Andre Rison, after an argument. The two reconciled, however, and announced a wedding date last July that came and went without a ceremony. Lopes also did two stints in alcohol rehab. In late 2000, she missed an appearance at a TLC press conference, and the group spent days with no idea where she was, though news reports eventually cited Left Eye spottings in London (with another boyfriend, Sean Newman), Chicago, New Orleans, and Honduras.

Lopes had recorded a solo album, ”Supernova,” that was supposed to come out last August, but Arista had scrapped its American release, citing poor support from radio. In recent months, she’d reportedly signed with gangsta-rap mogul Marion ”Suge” Knight’s Tha Row label and was working on a new album for him under the stage name N.I.N.A. (”New Identity Not Applicable”). It seemed she had traded one mentor for another. Producer Antonio ”L.A.” Reid, now Arista’s president, had taken much credit for shepherding TLC’s career. ”No words can possibly express the sorrow and sadness I feel for this most devastating loss,” he said in a statement Friday. ”Lisa was not only a gifted and talented musical inspiration, but more importantly, she was like a daughter to me. My thoughts and prayers are with Lisa’s family and friends. Her legacy will be remembered forever.”

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