Howie Epstein, 47, former bassist for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, died at a hospital in Santa Fe, N.M. late Sunday night. Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano says that while the cause of Epstei

Howie Epstein, 47, former bassist for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, died at a hospital in Santa Fe, N.M. late Sunday night. Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano says that while the cause of Epstein's death was as yet undetermined, the musician had been transported to the hospital by a female companion who told police that Epstein had been using heroin, and had also been taking prescription antibiotics for an illness.

"We are deeply saddened at the news of Howie's passing," reads a statement from Petty & the Heartbreakers. "It's difficult to put into words how much we loved him and will miss him. The world has lost a great talent and a kind and gentle soul. We can only take solace in knowing he is now at peace. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his many friends."

Epstein played with the Heartbreakers from 1982, when he replaced original bassist Ron Blair, until last year; at that time, the band said it had parted company with him "because of his ongoing personal problems." In 2001, Epstein and his then-girlfriend, singer Carlene Carter, were arrested in New Mexico after three grams of heroin were found in the couple's car.