NEW YORK — A mahogany casket bearing the body of Natasha Richardson left the New York townhouse today where stars of stage and screen from both sides of the Atlantic had gathered to pay their respects.
Richardson's body began the sad journey to her final resting place in the upstate New York town of Millbrook where the fallen actress will be given a final farewell at St. Joseph's Church, according to the New York Daily News.
E!online reported that her body will be interred Sunday near the Millbrook home she and husband Liam Neeson shared. The couple was married at the 200-year-old farm in July 1994, the News reported.
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Neeson, who is Irish, appeared grateful for the outpouring of sympathy and was the last to leave the viewing late Friday at New York's American Irish Historical Society, where he was joined by the couple's sons, — Micheal, 13, and Daniel, 12 — as well as Richardson's mother, Vanessa Redgrave, and sister, Joely Richardson.
Meanwhile, new details emerged of Richardson's final moments with Neeson and her family.
As Richardson lay in her hospital bed, her mother, actress Vanessa Redgrave, sang her a lullaby from "The Sound of Music," the News reported. Redgrave had first sung "Edelweiss" at Richardson's first wedding to producer Robert Fox 19 years ago, according to the report.
An array of famous mourners came later to express their sadness for the sudden loss of the talented actress who descended from one of Britain's greatest acting dynasties.
Neeson hugged friends as he left the society's building at 8:40 p.m., after more than six hours of receiving condolences from friends including Mike Nichols, Matthew Modine, Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke, and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Other visitors included Kenneth Cole, Laura Linney, Fisher Stevens, Stanley Tucci, Julianna Margulies and Mathilde Krim of the American Foundation of AIDS Research — amfAR. Richardson had served on the charity's board of trustees since 2006.
"She looked incredibly beautiful," Krim said, adding that everyone appeared in a state of shock and Neeson appeared distraught as he received everybody.
Friends expressed their shock and grief over her death.
"Natasha was a very close friend of our family, so it's been a very, very sad few days and I think it will stay that way for a good while," Matthew Broderick said. "It's hard to say."
Actor Jonathan Cake said: "I had dinner with her Saturday night. Just the two of us. Saturday night, last Saturday. She left to ski the next day."
The private viewing followed Thursday night's tribute when Broadway theaters dimmed their lights to mark her death. Theaters in London's West End dimmed their lights Friday. The two-minute mark of respect started just before 7 p.m. Because London plays don't start at the same time, the tribute was staggered over an hour across theaters.
Richardson, 45, died Wednesday at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York after falling at the Mont Tremblant resort in Quebec on Monday. The New York City medical examiner's office ruled her death an accident on Thursday, and said she suffered from an epidural hematoma, which causes bleeding between the skull and the brain's covering.
Doctors said Richardson might have survived had she received immediate treatment. However, nearly four hours elapsed between her lethal fall and her admission to a hospital.
The lack of medical helicopters in the province of Quebec may have played a role in Richardson's death, Montreal's top head trauma doctor said Friday.
Tarek Razek, director of trauma services for the McGill University Health Centre, which represents six of Montreal's hospitals said: "It's impossible for me to comment specifically about her case, but what I could say is... driving to Mont Tremblant from the city (Montreal) is a two-and-a-half-hour trip, and the closest trauma centre is in the city. Our system isn't set up for traumas and doesn't match what's available in other Canadian cities, let alone in the States... and many other developed countries."
Being driven by ambulance to two separate hospitals rather than airlifted by helicopter directly to a trauma centre could have cost Richardson crucial moments, he said. "A helicopter is obviously the fastest way to get from Point A to Point B," he said. Centre Hospitalier Laurentien, the first treatment centre Richardson was brought to, does not specialize in head traumas, so her speedy transfer to Sacre Coeur Hospital in Montreal was critical, said Razek.
Mont Tremblant resort officials have said only that she fell on a beginner's trail and later reported not feeling well. Patients with a blow to the head often feel fine immediately after being hurt because symptoms from the bleeding may take time to emerge.
Razek said immediate treatment might have helped Richardson but added: "There are so many variables it's hard to speculate what might have been done differently."
"This is a very treatable condition if you're aware of what the problem is and the patient is quickly transferred to a hospital," said Dr. Keith Siller of New York University Langone Medical Center. "But there is very little time to correct this."
Richardson was known for her work in such plays as "Cabaret" (for which she won a Tony) and "Anna Christie" and in the films "Patty Hearst" and "The Handmaid's Tale." She also played Lindsay Lohan's mother in "The Parent Trap."
Richardson gave several memorable stage performances, more than living up to some of the theater's most famous roles: Sally Bowles of "Cabaret," Blanche DuBois of "A Streetcar Named Desire" and the title character of Eugene O'Neill's "Anna Christie," a 1993 revival in which she co-starred with future husband Neeson.