Deftones bassist Chi Cheng, who has been in a semi-conscious state since a 2008 car accident, died early Saturday morning, his family announced. He was 42. In a statement posted on the fan site Oneloveforchi.com, Cheng’s family writes that the musician was taken to the emergency room where he died at 3 a.m.
“He left this world with me singing songs he liked in his ear,” wrote Jeanne Marie Cheng, or “Mom J” for short.
Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno confirmed Cheng’s passing on his Facebook page. At press time the Grammy-winning band has not made a formal statement.
Cheng suffered major injuries and was left in a coma following a November 2008 car crash in Santa Clara, Calif. The bassist was driving with his sister when they collided with another car, sending his vehicle rolling. He was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle. His sister was wearing hers, and only sustained minor injuries.
“Chi is one of the strongest people I know, and I’m praying that his strength will get him through this,” Moreno said at the time on the Deftones’ blog.
In the years since, Cheng had been making slow but steady progress in his recovery. In 2009 it was reported that he was no longer in a coma but in a semi-conscious state. A year later, doctors said he was “showing signs of improved neuro function.” Recently he regained limited ability to move his legs on command.
Most updates regarding Cheng since his accident have come through the Oneloveforchi site, which was started by fan Gina Blackmore. The site has raised money for Cheng’s medical expenses and the bassist’s family regularly posts messages there.
Cheng co-founded Deftones in the late 1980s with fellow Sacramentoans Moreno, Stephen Carpenter and Abe Cunningham. He was an integral part of the nu-metal band’s success, performing on their first five albums, released between 1994 and 2006. Commercially the group peaked in 2000 with the platinum-selling “White Pony,” which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and contained the hit “Change (In the House of Flies).” A self-titled followup in 2003 debuted at No. 2.
In late 2008, they were putting the finishing touches on the next full-length album, titled “Eros.” Following Cheng’s accident, the band ultimately decided to shelve the project and later recruited Sergio Vega, formerly of Quicksand, to play bass. They have released two albums since.
Cheng is survived by a son, Gabriel.