Tributes poured in today to actress Natasha Richardson who has died after an accident during a skiing lesson.
Critics and showbusiness figures hailed the 45-year-old star as a “wonderful performer” and sent their sympathies to her husband, Irish actor Liam Neeson.
Neeson and Richardson’s family – many of them stars of stage and screen – were “shocked and devastated” by her death, which came after she fell while taking a supervised lesson on a beginners’ run at the luxury Mont Tremblant resort in Quebec, Canada, on Monday.
Alan Nierob, Neeson’s publicist, said: “Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha.
“They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time.”
Neeson, 56, Richardson’s mother, Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave, 72, and two sons, Michael, 13, and Daniel, 12, visited her after she was flown from Canada to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, where she died last night.
Lindsay Lohan, who co-starred with Richardson in the 1998 film 'The Parent Trap', said: “She was a wonderful woman and actress and treated me like I was her own. My heart goes out to her family. This is a tragic loss.”
Film director Michael Winner said: “It’s a terrible, terrible thing. It’s always tragic when people of such buoyancy and life are taken away on what appears to be utterly trivial events.
“She was a wonderful actress – the whole family is incredible – and she had not yet fulfilled her possibilities.
“Whenever you met her, it was like a joy. It’s a twinkle and a sparkle that has left the world.”
Chat show host Michael Parkinson said: “I met her a couple of times, I know Liam quite well, I’ve interviewed him two or three times.
“My thoughts are with him, it’s a terrible, awful tragedy.
“They are a close-knit family, they will be able to share their grief together, that is the only consolation.
“Liam is one of the nicest guys I’ve met in the business, and so was she. They were very unshowy people, they did a job, got on with their lives, enjoyed their lives – it’s very sad.”
The star showed no visible sign of injury after the accident on Monday but was taken to the bottom of the slope by a ski patrol and told she should see a doctor.
About an hour later she started feeling unwell and was taken to hospital.
Neeson flew from the set of his new film in Toronto to be with his wife as soon as he heard news of the accident.
She was then flown from Canada to New York, where she and her family live, for further treatment, but her death was announced shortly before midnight UK time.
BBC film critic Quentin Cooper said it had taken many observers a while to realise “the gravity of the situation”.
He told BBC News that the consequences would be “devastating” for Neeson and said Richardson had a wide range of achievements, from film and television roles to a “hugely acclaimed” production of Anton Chekhov’s 'The Three Sisters' in her twenties.
“She’s a very familiar figure right across the board,” he said.
Born in May 1963, Richardson was also the granddaughter of Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, the sister of actress Joely Richardson, and the niece of Lynn and Corin Redgrave.
She was educated at St Paul’s Girls School in London and trained at the city’s Central School of Speech and Drama.
She married 'Schindler’s List' star Neeson in 1994 after the pair met on the set of the film 'Nell'.
Her extensive experience on stage included a number of Shakespearean roles including Ophelia in 'Hamlet' and Helena in 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream'.
In 1986 she won the London Drama Critics’ most promising newcomer award for her performance as Nina in 'The Seagull' alongside her mother.
She also won a Tony award for best actress in a musical for her performance as Sally Bowles in Sam Mendes’ production of 'Cabaret' on Broadway in 1998.
Dr Neil Martin, chairman of neurological surgery at the UCLA Medical Centre in California, told the BBC: “It’s profoundly unusual for a minor head injury, as was described, to result in a life-threatening medical crisis.
“But falling even from a standing position is a six-foot fall as far as your head is concerned, so you can get a tremendous impact if you fall unprotected, or fall on your back and your head whiplashes into the pavement or hard snow.
"So it’s possible to get a severe injury, even from what ostensibly looks like a mild fall.”
Yves Coderre, director of operations at the emergency services company which sent the medics to Mont Tremblant on Monday, told Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper that ski patrollers requested an ambulance after Richardson fell but paramedics were turned away.
Mr Coderre said medical workers responded but were told they were not needed when they arrived. Another ambulance was called to Richardson’s hotel later and she was then taken to hospital.