NATALIE WOOD IS FOUND DROWNED ON YACHT VISIT TO SANTA CATALINA New York Times. November 30, 1981. LOS ANGELES, Nov. 29— The body of Natalie Wood, the actress, was found today in a rocky cove off Santa Catalina Island, the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department said. Investigators attributed her death to accidental drowning, pending further inquiry.
The discovery was made about 7:45 A.M. from a sheriff’s department helicopter after a seven-hour search, said Pat Soll, a sheriff’s deputy.
Miss Wood, 43 years old, was staying in a 55-foot cabin cruiser with her husband, Robert Wagner, 51, star of the television series ”Hart to Hart,” while visiting the island 22 miles off the Southern California coast.
Miss Wood, her husband and Christopher Walken, her co-star in the nearly completed film ”Brainstorm,” arrived at the island Saturday afternoon. They had dinner on the island before returning to the yacht, the Splendor.
Shortly after midnight the others learned that Miss Wood was missing, and Mr. Wagner, Mr. Walken and the ship’s captain began looking for her. At 3:30, the Coast Guard was called, and at 6, the Los Angeles County lifeguard division at Catalina Island joined the search.
(In Los Angeles, Miss Wood’s attorney, Paul Ziffren, issued a statement saying that she ”often took the dinghy out alone” and that Mr. Wagner was not immediately worried when it was noticed that she was missing, The Associated Press reported.
(However, the statement went on, ”when she did not return within 10 or 15 minutes,” the actor took another small boat out to look for her, then notified the shore patrol when he could not find her.)
Miss Wood’s body was found floating just beneath the surface about 200 yards from where a small inflatable motorized dinghy was lodged in a small cove at Blue Cavern Point. The point is half a mile from Isthmus Cove, where the Splendor was moored.
It is not known if the actress had slipped or had jumped from the boat, the sheriff’s department said. Miss Wood’s body was fully clothed except for shoes, said Roger Smith, who operates rescue boats for Los Angeles County on Catalina Island.
”She was in the water a long time,” he said. ”There are a lot of things like exposure she could have died from.” He added that there was no evidence to suggest her death was anything but accidental. An autopsy was scheduled Monday at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. Mr. Smith said Miss Wood and Mr. Wagner visited the island perhaps as often as a dozen times a year. The latest visit was made in a break in the filming for ”Brainstorm,” a contemporary action drama for M-G-M studios, according Dale Olson, the couple’s publicist.
Miss Wood was scheduled to resume filming Monday. ‘Seemed in Great Spirits’
”She seemed to be in great spirits on Wednesday,” Don Levy, the film’s publicist, said of Miss Wood’s last day of filming. ”Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary.”
Don Chase, a freelance writer who interviewed her on location in North Carolina a month ago, said: ”She struck me as being a very content and fulfilled woman.
”Her career was picking up again with this and the stage production of ‘Anastasia.’ She was booked up solidly for almost the next year.”
Miss Wood was to have started rehearsing for ”Anastasia” at the Ahmanson Theater of the Los Angeles Music Center after she finished ”Brainstorm.”
She began her career at the age of 4 with a bit part in the 1943 movie ”Happy Land.” She eventually was nominated for three Academy Awards: in 1955 as best supporting actress for ”Rebel Without a Cause,” in 1961 as best actress for ”Splendor in the Grass” and in 1963 as best actress for ”Love With the Perfect Stranger.”
She also received the 1980 Golden Globe Award for best actress. ”She was a sensational actress, often underrated because she was a ‘movie star’ and as pretty as she was,” said Sydney Pollack, who directed her in ”This Property Is Condemned” in 1966. ”She had a combination of vulnerability and a kind of aura.”