Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Travolta's tragedy

The Bahamas will use two pathologists to ensure a careful autopsy on John Travolta's son, who died at the actor's vacation home in Grand Bahama, the territory's health minister said Saturday.

Dr. Hubert Minnis told The Associated Press that he decided to use a second specialist to guarantee a thorough assessment of what might have caused Jett Travolta's death.

The 16-year-old was found collapsed in a bathroom on Friday after apparently having a seizure and hitting his head on the bathtub, said a police officer who declined to be named because she was not authorized to speak on the matter.

A U.S.-certified clinical and forensic pathologist from Nassau will fly into Grand Bahama on Monday to help perform the autopsy, Minnis said. A possible cause of death likely will be known by the end of the day, he said.

The body will be embalmed at Restview Memorial mortuary in the Bahamas.

"We will embalm the body and there will be a private family viewing," owner Keith McSweeney told Radar Online. "After that, the body will be shipped back to Ocala, Florida."

Jett likely will be buried in Florida, an attorney said Saturday. Preliminary plans are to fly Jett's body to Ocala by midweek, Michael McDermott, Travolta's corporate and commercial attorney, told The Associated Press.

Travolta, 54, and his wife, actress Kelly Preston, 46, have a house in Ocala.

"John and Kelly are still sleeping," McDermott said late Saturday morning. "They probably stayed up most of the night ... It's heartwrenching. If you knew how much he loved that boy ... You could just see it, you could feel it."

Previous suggestions that Jett's body lay undiscovered from Thursday evening until Friday morning are false, TMZ reports.

McDermott told TMZ it appears Jett went back and forth to his room and the fatal injury occurred "very shortly" before Jett was found on the bathroom floor.

Two nannies were on the trip with Jett and caretaker Jeff Katharain, who discovered the teenager unconscious in a bathroom late Friday morning, was with him all the time, TMZ reported.

Jett Travolta had a history of seizures, Police Superintendent Basil Rahming said in a statement. It is still not known if Jett fell to the floor as a result of a seizure or if he had a seizure after falling or slipping.

Jett was taken by ambulance to a Freeport hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the statement said.

A hotel manager was first on scene with Katharain, and the two of them administered CPR. John Travolta came in shortly thereafter and took over, and for a "substantial period of time was performing CPR and continued that until EMT came and took over" McDermott told TMZ.

Jett apparently hit his head on the bathtub, said a police officer who declined to be named because she was not authorized to speak on the matter.

Family attorney Michael Ossi said in a statement that Jett died suddenly on Friday. Publicists Samantha Mast and Paul Bloch released the statement but could not be reached for additional comment.

Obie Wilchcombe, a parliament member and former tourism minister in the Bahamas, said that an autopsy is planned for Monday, and "we expect a quick resolution."

"John spoke with the minister of health and the doctors and police are at the hospital. They're very, very quick to resolve things," he said.

Wilchcombe said Travolta "spent a tremendous amount of time with Jett."

"He always brought him along. There was a close affectionate relationship and lots of love," Wilchcombe told "Larry King Live" in a live telephone interview. "People in the old Bahama community today are in shock."

Travolta, 54, and his wife, actress Kelly Preston, 46, also have an 8-year-old daughter, Ella Bleu. The family had arrived in the Bahamas on a private plane Tuesday and was vacationing at their home in the Old Bahama Bay resort community.

Preston and Travolta have said that Jett became very sick when he was 2 years old and was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, an illness that leads to inflammation of the blood vessels in young children. She blamed household cleaners and fertilizers, and said that a detoxification program based on teachings from the Church of Scientology helped improve his health, according to People magazine. Both Travolta and Preston are practicing Scientologists.

"I was obsessive about his space being cleaned. We constantly had the carpets cleaned," Travolta said in a 2001 interview with CNN's Larry King, a portion of which was rebroadcast on the "Larry King Live" show Friday night. During that interview, when Jett was 9, Travolta spoke of how his son nearly died when he was 2.

It is unclear whether Jett was taking any medications for his seizures.

The Scientology Celebrity Center in Los Angeles declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport said she could not release any information because of privacy concerns.

Travolta's corporate and commercial attorney, Michael McDermott, said the actor had a very strong relationship with his son.

"There was unspoken communication between the two. ... It's just so hard," he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "Kelly is very quiet and both are grieving."

McDermott said his family and other friends are with the couple in the Bahamas. The group came for a two-day New Year's celebration and had planned to return to Florida on Sunday.

"We're are all here and trying to help in any way we can," McDermott said. "Their pain is so evident."

Travolta, who gained fame as Vinnie Barbarino on the 1970s television show "Welcome Back, Kotter" and the 1977 film "Saturday Night Fever," went on to become one of Hollywood's biggest names. He married Preston in 1991.

A television actress, Preston appeared with Travolta in the 2000 film "Battlefield Earth," based on a novel by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

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