The New York City medical examiner’s office announced on Thursday (March 19) that the autopsy for Natasha Richardson revealed that the 45-year-old actress died of blunt impact to the head, according to The Associated Press. Richardson was seriously injured in a skiing accident on Monday.
Medical examiner’s office spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said the death was ruled accidental and that the exact cause was “epidural hematoma due to blunt impact to the head.” Tony-winning actress Richardson, who was the mother of two adolescent boys with husband actor Liam Neeson, was injured while skiing on a beginner’s hill in Canada on Monday. Initial reports did not indicate that officials at the resort saw any visible signs of injury after Richardson’s fall and the medical examiner’s office did not specify what caused the trauma to Richardson’s brain.
A Los Angeles neurosurgeon not involved in the case, Dr. Wouter Schievink, told TMZ that the injury is similar to the kind of damage a baseball player might suffer when hit in the side of the head by a pitch. The doctor told the site that an epidural hematoma is detectable with a CT scan, but that sometimes if the scan is performed soon after the injury it might not detect it.
When that kind of injury is suffered, surgery is needed very quickly to relieve pressure in the brain from inter-cranial bleeding. If surgery is not performed quickly, the patient can suffer brain damage and die. Officials did not specify if Richardson had suffered brain damage or if she was conscious in the hours after she was transferred to a New York hospital for treatment on Tuesday.
Richardson was reportedly feeling fine after the fall in soft snow at the Mont Tremblant resort and did not appear to have hit her head. She returned to her hotel room soon after, where she complained of a headache and was taken to a local hospital. She was then transferred to a larger hospital in Montreal and, finally, to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, where she died on Wednesday.
The New York Times reported that Broadway will dim the marquee lights before its 8 p.m. performances on Thursday in Richardson’s memory. The AP also reported on Thursday that Quebec is considering making helmets mandatory on ski slopes in the wake of Richardson’s death.