Judith Hill, Prince’s protégée and collaborator for the last two years of his life, described his final days to The New York Times in a profile published on Tuesday—including the details of his mid-flight accidental overdose six days before his untimely passing at the age of 57.
Hill, a Grammy winner for her work on the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom and former contestant on The Voice, was the first to recognize that anything with the star was wrong on a flight from a concert in Atlanta—which would turn out to be one of his last—to his Paisley Park estate and studio outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
While discussing his performances over a dinner of pasta and vegetables, Hill witnessed her mentor become unconscious.
“His eyes fixed,” said Hill, and attributed the fact that she was looking at his face to subsequently recognize that something was amiss.
Hill then alerted Kirk Johnson, Prince’s aide and trusted friend, that the singer needed immediate medical assistance; after attempting to wake him, Johnson immediately notified the pilot, who rerouted the plane and made an emergency landing outside of Moline, Illinois.
“We knew it was only a matter of time; we had to get him down,” she told her NYT interviewer, Melena Ryzik. “We didn’t have anything on the plane to help him.”
Prince was then taken from the plane to Trinity Moline Hospital by paramedics, who revived the musician with a shot of Narcan, an opiate antidote used to combat the lethal effects of an overdose.
Months after her Prince’s death, Hill, who described their relationship as “very intense,” though did not comment on whether or not it was romantic in nature, is still in disbelief over her mentor’s passing. She also noted that she was unaware of his dependence on painkillers, let alone to fentanyl, the opiod responsible for his fatal overdose.
“[He] was quick on his feet,” she said. “Never said anything, that this is hurting, never a sign of struggle. That’s why it’s all very shocking.”
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