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TLC singer killed in car crash

Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes of the R&B group TLC died in a car crash in Honduras.
Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes of the R&B group TLC died in a car crash in Honduras. (AP photo)
LA CEIBA, Honduras - Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, of the Grammy-winning trio TLC, had spent the past month in Honduras working on a multitude of projects - a clothing line, a new solo project and a book about her colorful, sometimes troubled life.

But she died before she was able to write the final chapter. The singer, who would have turned 31 next month, was killed as she was driving on a Honduran road, said her publicist, Jay Marose.

Eight other people, including a sister of Lopes, were in the Mitsubishi Montero sports utility vehicle when the crash occurred Thursday night near Jutiapa, about 10 miles west of La Ceiba, on Honduras' northern Atlantic coast.

La Ceiba Police Inspector John Cole said Lopes was traveling from the jungle to a natural-medicine compound where she was staying in Jutiapa when the accident occurred.

Lopes was trying to pass a car on the highway when a truck approached from the other lane, forcing her to veer sharply to the left, striking two trees and then flipping over several times, Cole said.

The police inspector said the seriousness of the accident indicated that Lopes was driving at an excessive speed, but he could not say exactly how fast she was driving.

Lopes was killed instantly. Several other people in the car were taken to a hospital in La Ceiba for non-life-threatening head, arm and leg injuries, Cole said.

Lopes' body is being flown back to her hometown of Atlanta on Saturday.

Lopes had visited the Villa Usha natural medicine compound in Jutiapa, which features thermal baths and other treatments, since 1998, Cole said.

TLC members Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, said they were devastated by the death. The group had been working on the follow-up to their Grammy-winning, triple-platinum album, "Fanmail," released in 1999.

"We are sisters, we had been together for more than 10 years," Watkins said Friday in a tearful phone interview with MTV's "Total Request Live."

The Atlanta-based R&B group is the best-selling female group in history in terms of album sales, having sold 21 million. The Supremes are the top all-female group in terms of No. 1 hits, garnering 12 compared with TLC's four.

TLC's hits included the No. 1 smashes "Waterfalls," "No Scrubs" and "Creep." Their songs often delivered a message of female empowerment, with sassy, sexy lyrics. But they also addressed more serious topics, such as the dangers of AIDS in "Waterfalls," and unrealistic beauty expectations in "Unpretty."

The group made its debut in 1992 with the disc, "Ooooooh ... On the TLC Tip!" Their unique sound, which paired Watkins and Thomas' vocals with Philadelphia-born Lopes' fast-paced, squeaky-voiced rhymes, along with their baggy wardrobe with condoms attached, made them an immediate sensation.

Lopes' nickname came from her habit of replacing one lens of her glasses with a condom during performances.

In 1994, the band returned with "CrazySexyCool" - Lopes was dubbed the "crazy" member of the group, Thomas the "sexy" one and Watkins the "cool" one. The quadruple platinum album saw the women abandon their sometimes gimmicky image to evolve into a critically acclaimed group. The album won them the first two of their four Grammy Awards, among the many trophies they would collect over the course of their careers.

Lopes also helped start the group Blaque, an R&B trio who had the hit "Bring It Home To Me."

But with success came enough turmoil to fill a VH1 "Behind the Music" special. The trio declared bankruptcy a few years ago, citing poorly structured recording contracts. Watkins was hospitalized several times, suffering from sickle cell anemia.

In 1994, Lopes pleaded guilty to arson in a fire that destroyed the million-dollar mansion of her boyfriend, former Atlanta Falcons receiver Andre Rison. Lopes was sentenced to a halfway house and five years' probation, plus a dlrs 10,000 fine.

Lopes admitted she started the fire after an argument with Rison. The two later broke up, only to reunite and break up again. Last year, they announced plans to marry, but they were not dating when she died, said Marose.

Rison did not immediately release a statement, but his attorney, Max Richardson, said: "They were very close. They had talked about getting things back together again. I don't know whether anything formal had been set, but they cared for each other greatly. It's just a sad day."

The group also had its own infighting. After the release of the triple-platinum disc "Fanmail," Lopes hinted she might leave the group, and later challenged Watkins and Thomas to put out solo albums and let fans determine who was the most popular group member. But her own solo album, "Supernova," was shelved last year when radio stations showed little interest.

Lopes became a single mother two years ago when she adopted a little girl named Snow, said a spokesman for TLC, Rob Goldstone. The girl, 9, was not with Lopes at the time of her death.

TLC had been on hiatus but recently returned to the studio to work on a new album due to have been released this year.

"Their relationship, I think like any long term relationship, had hit a rough patch which was pretty public," he said. "(But) I think this next record was going to the best thing they ever did. ... They had all settled back in and were really working together with this next record, and the music was really spectacular."

In the past few months, Lopes signed a solo deal with Suge Knight's Tha Row label to put out another solo project under the pseudonym, N.I.N.A. (New Identity Not Applicable).

Marose said she was working on several projects in Honduras, including a clothing line and a book that would include her personal journals and poetry.

Lopes' manager flew to Honduras to bring her body home, her record label, Arista Records, said.

She is survived by her mother, her daughter, and a younger brother and sister.

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