Family, Friends Bid Farewell to Natasha Richardson at Funeral

PHOTO Pallbearers carry the casket of actress Natasha Richardson, shown in this inset file photo, from the American Irish Historical Society in New York on Saturday, March 21, 2009.

Almost a week after her tragic accident on a Canadian ski slope, friends and family are bidding a final farewell to Natasha Richardson today at a private funeral service in New York's Hudson Valley.

The service began this afternoon at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Millbrook, N.Y. Church Vicar Edward Johnston told The Associated Press that the service would only be open to family and close friends.

Richardson's husband, Liam Neeson, was among the pallbearers for her coffin as it was taken into the church. He arrived with his sons and mother-in-law, Vanessa Redgrave. Other stars at the funeral include actor Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, Alan Rickman and Laura Linney. Fiennes, Thurman and Linney also attended Richardson's wake.

VIDEO: Recalling Natasha Richardson, Reese Cleghorn and Ron Silver.
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A day before her funeral, some wondered if a medical helicopter might have been able to save the actress, who passed away Wednesday at age 45 after falling on a Quebec ski slope.

The province of Quebec lacks a medical helicopter system, often used in the United States and other parts of Canada, to airlift stricken patients to major trauma centers. Montreal's top head trauma doctor told the AP that may have played a role in Richardson's death.

"It's impossible for me to comment specifically about her case, but what I could say is ... driving to Mont Tremblant from the city [Montreal] is a 2 1/2-hour trip, and the closest trauma center is in the city. Our system isn't set up for traumas and doesn't match what's available in other Canadian cities, let alone in the States," Tarek Razek, director of trauma services for the McGill University Health Centre, which represents six of Montreal's hospitals, told the AP.

VIDEO: Natasha Richardson accidental death
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Razek's comments came on the heels of a celebrity-studded wake for Richardson, held Friday afternoon at the American Irish Historical Society in New York City.

A hearse carrying Richardson's body arrived at the society, at 991 Fifth Ave. and E. 80th Street, early Friday. Neeson arrived shortly after with their two sons. Richardson's mother and sister, Joley Richardson, also attended.

Celebrities including Lauren Bacall, Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke, Sarah Jessica Parker, Stanley Tucci and ABC News' Diane Sawyer showed up to mourn the death of the industry-beloved star.

According to the AP, Neeson left society at 8:40 p.m. Friday night, more than six hours after the wake began. A mahogany casket bearing Richardson's body left the society Saturday.

Vanessa Redgrave, Ethan Hawke, and Sarah Jessica Parker among the loved ones who attended Natasha Richardson's wake.

The New York City Medical Examiner's Office conducted an autopsy on the Tony Award-winning actress Thursday. The office ruled her death accidental, citing the cause as an epidural hematoma due to blunt force trauma to the head.

Neeson and family members were by her side when she died. Her death was announced in a statement released Wednesday evening by Neeson's publicist.

"Liam Neeson, his sons and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha," the statement said. "They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time."

Natasha Richardson and Liam Neeson, January 2007.

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