Hospital official: James Gandolfini probably died of a heart attack

Updated 10:00 AM EDT, Sat June 22, 2013

Story highlights

Friend Michael Kobold says family found Gandolfini in his room, raised the alarm

Head of a Rome hospital's emergency department: Death likely from "a natural cause"

Gandolfini was dead when he arrived by ambulance at a Rome hospital, official says

Medical examiners must conduct an autopsy within 24 hours after the body's arrival in the morgue

Rome CNN —  

James Gandolfini probably died of a heart attack, according to the head of a Rome hospital’s emergency department where the actor was taken after falling ill at a hotel in the Italian capital.

The body of the actor was transferred to the morgue at the Policlinico Umberto I hospital in Rome early Thursday, where it awaited an autopsy.

By law, medical examiners in Italy are required to carry out the postmortem 24 hours after the body’s arrival in the morgue, a hospital spokesman said.

Professor Claudio Modini, head of the emergency department where the actor was taken, said he could not be certain of the cause of death until after the autopsy – but it was “probably a natural cause of death, myocardial infarction,” or heart attack.

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Emergency room doctors had not noted any suspicious factors, such as alcohol, on his medical report, he said.

Ambulance staff tried to resuscitate the actor at the hotel, and further efforts were made when he reached the emergency room, Modini said, but Gandolfini was dead when he arrived at the hospital, and “there was nothing to do.”

Though the cause of death is not confirmed, his managers also believe that a heart attack killed the man who portrayed Tony Soprano, a washed-up mob boss prone to keeling over from panic attacks, at age 51.

Before Italian authorities can release Gandolfini’s remains for transport back to the United States, the U.S. Embassy in Rome must issue a death certificate.

No one from the embassy or the actor’s family has contacted the morgue yet, morgue spokesman Antonio Spasola said Thursday morning.

The U.S. Embassy said it was “deeply upset” by the news of Gandolfini’s premature death but had not yet received any official confirmation from local authorities. The embassy “will offer any proper assistance to the family when they request it,” its statement said.

Enjoying Italy

Hours before he died, Gandolfini told Mario Sesti by phone how much he was looking forward to the next leg of his Italian vacation.

He was heading for Taormina in Sicily, a quaint town packed with historical architecture and nestled between lush green hills and the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

There, he was to receive an award at a local film festival held before the backdrop of an ancient Roman arena.

Sesti, who heads the festival, was eagerly awaiting Gandolfini’s arrival Friday. He was shaken by the news of his death.

Sesti will replace the award ceremony with a tribute to Gandolfini’s lifetime achievement.

“He was the American actor who better than anyone else was able to interpret the Italian-American society, with all of its rich contrasts, ambitions, pain, humor,” Sesti said.

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A medical emergency

Michael Kobold, who described himself as a close family friend of Gandolfini, gave more details of his final moments in a news conference Thursday at the Boscolo Exedra Rome Hotel, where the actor was staying.

Gandolfini experienced a medical emergency about 10 p.m. Wednesday, he said.