Celebrity Deaths

Sudden cardiac arrest knows no bounds as far as who it takes and there have been numerous celebrities that have succumbed to it.

Tommy Cooper

April the 15th 1984, live on television from Her Majesty’s Theatre, Westminster, Thomas Frederick Cooper collapsed on stage from a reported ‘heart attack.’

Midway through his act on London Weekend Television’s Variety Show, with millions of viewers watching, events unfolded.

Whilst being helped on with a red cloak by his assistant and with Jimmy Tarbuck, the host, hiding behind the stage’s back curtain, preparing to pass Tommy the required props…. Props that would magically appear from inside of his cloak.  Tommy just collapsed to the ground making gasping noises, highly likely to have suffered a cardiac arrest.

The assistant on stage watched on smiling, thinking it was all part of the show and those thoughts were echoed throughout the auditorium. Cooper died to roars of laughter. Ironically, dying the same way he had lived.

Alisdair Macmillian, the programme’s director cued for the orchestra to play for an unscheduled commercial break.  No adverts were on cue, so for a few moments there was nothing but a black screen.

Jimmy Tarbuck’s manager pulled Tommy off the stage, through the curtain to the other side… and the show went on.

Dustin Gee and Les Dennis were up next with their performance. At the back of the stage, efforts were made to revive Cooper. This wasn’t an easy task in the dark.

Sometime later there was another commercial break and it wasn’t till this point that the ambulance crew were able to move him into their waiting vehicle.  He was taken to Westminster Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The event was the headline on the news program that followed the show but it was not made official until the following morning. The footage of the event is still available to watch on YouTube.

His work schedule left him having to cope with arduous hours. In one week alone he performed 52 shows and he had become well known for his heavy drinking and smoking.  This took its toll on his career and his health.  The conjurer whose tricks always went wrong had suffered an actual heart attack in 1977 whilst in Rome. He was back on television screens three months later. His lifestyle seems to have played a big factor in the star’s death, though he died doing what he loved.

Carrie Fisher

60-year-old Carrie Fisher died after going into cardiac arrest on a flight from London to Los Angeles on the 27th December 2016. Reports stated she was not breathing for 10 minutes. She was given defibrillation aboard the plane and her heartbeat was restarted, but then it ceased again.  The star, famous for her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, was found to have a build up of fatty tissue in her arteries, a common cause of cardiac arrest. It’s also reported the star had previously suffered with sleep apnoea. Tests also provided toxicological information that suggests there was also cocaine, morphine and Ecstasy in her system at the time of death.

Richard Pryor

Actor and comedian Richard Pryor is recognisable for his 70s and 80s roles. A winner of many awards, including Emmys and a Grammy.

Whilst in California, he suffered a cardiac event. His wife attempted resuscitation on him but to no avail. He was taken to hospital by ambulance and pronounced dead. He was 65 years old.

Christopher Reeve

Superman actor Christopher Reeve had an accident falling off a horse on the 27th May 1995. His injuries were serious and he lived the rest of his life as a quadriplegic, requiring a wheelchair and apparatus to breathe.

The night of the 9th October 2004, after attending a hockey game his son was playing in, he went into cardiac arrest. He had been given antibiotics for an infected pressure ulcer and became unwell.  He fell into a coma and died the next day aged 52. His doctor believed an adverse reaction to the antibiotic caused the cardiac arrest.

Brittany Murphy

Actress on film and stage. An accomplished singer too, Brittany debuted in A view from the bridge in 1997. Clueless was also a big hit for her and 8 miles, where she starred along side Eminem.

On the 20th December 2009, a fire crew were called to her home to attend to a medical incident. The 32-year-old had been found collapsed on her bathroom floor. She was taken to Cedars Sinai Medical Centre, where she went into cardiac arrest and died. The acute cause was found to be from pneumonia and severe anaemia.

Joe Strummer

Joe Strummer‘s cardiac arrest came in 2002 after the 50-year-old musician had just returned from walking the family dog.  The vocalist and guitarist for the punk rock band The Clash and for late-1990s band The Mescaleros, collapsed and died of sudden cardiac arrest at his home in Somerset, England. His wife found him and called police, who pronounced him dead. It was later determined that Strummer had an undiagnosed congenital heart condition.

Pete Burns

He was the founder and lead singer of the band Dead or Alive and died at the age of 57 after a cardiac arrest. Read more here

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