SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

Grey’s Anatomy bid farewell to one of its original stars tonight, which marked the final episode of leading man Patrick Dempsey.

Greys-Anatomy-season-11-how-to-save-a-life-feature-888x456“After 11 seasons on Grey’s Anatomy, Patrick Dempsey is moving on to pursue other interests,” ABC said in a statement. “Dr. Derek Shepherd is an iconic character and we’ve been proud to be the home of ‘McDreamy’ and the ‘Mer/Der’ love story. The devotion of Grey’s fans throughout the years has been a testament to the creative mind of Shonda Rhimes and Dempsey’s talent. ‘McDreamy’ will be greatly missed and we wish Patrick the very best in his future endeavors.”

Tonight’s Grey’s Anatomy episode, written by series creator Shonda Rhimes, put an end of weeks of speculation that Dempsey, who has played Dr. Shepherd since the show debuted in 2005, would be exiting this season. Dempsey further fueled the rumors, telling the Portland Press Herald in November that he planned to leave soon, despite having signed a new two-year contract in 2014.

pompeodempseyThat re-signing last spring came as somewhat of a surprise as Dempsey had been dropping hints in the months leading to it that he may be ready to move on. But despite his series regular status on the show, Dempsey had not been seen much this season amid rumors of backstage drama.

His departure tonight, with his character being killed off in a dramatic fashion, still had been kept under wraps but was spoiled by a post-mortem interview Dempsey had given to EW that leaked prematurely, with the news hitting social media by early afternoon Thursday.

“Derek Shepherd is and will always be an incredibly important character — for Meredith, for me and for the fans,” Rhimes said. “I absolutely never imagined saying goodbye to our ‘Mcdreamy’. Patrick Dempsey’s performance shaped Derek in a way that I know we both hope became a meaningful example — happy, sad, romantic, painful and always true — of what young women should demand from modern love.  His loss will be felt by all. Now, Meredith and the entire Grey’s Anatomy family are about to enter uncharted territory as we head into this new chapter of her life. The possibilities for what may come are endless. As Ellis Grey would say: the carousel never stops turning.”

Grey’s Anatomy will deal with the aftermath of Dr. Shepherd’s exit in a two-hour episode next Thursday. ABC today announced that Scandal will be preempted next week for an extra hour of Grey’s, with both the Grey’s and Scandal season finales now airing on May 14.

As for Dempsey, an avid race-car driver, he has a development deal at ABC Studios as part of his most recent Grey’s contract with and a racing drama in the works at Sundance.