Heath Ledger’s dad has recalled the heartbreaking moment he discovered his son had died after seeing the stretcher carrying Heath’s body being taken out of his home in a chilling TV broadcast.
Hollywood actor Heath died in New York on January 22, 2008 from a cardiac arrest, brought on by a prescription drug overdose. He was tragically pronounced dead at the scene after being found in his apartment by his housekeeper. Within hours, the world’s media had gathered outside the star’s Manhattan apartment and broadcast images of his body being carted into an ambulance.
Now, speaking on Nova‘s Addicted podcast, Heath’s devastated father Kim Ledger has revealed he only discovered his son had died when he saw the footage himself, after waking up to a worrying phone call from his colleague.
Kim revealed one of his business partners had called him while he was still in bed, asking how his family were and expressing concerns for his son Heath. It turns out his colleague already knew of the tragedy, but couldn’t bring himself to say anything. Worrying about the call shortly after, Kim turned on his TV.
“We literally turned the television on [and] the first thing I saw was them carting the stretcher out, carting Heath out on a stretcher to put in the back of an ambulance. That’s the vision that will always stay with me. We couldn’t believe it,” he said. “We kinda felt like we were the last to know.”
Kim admitted his pain was made worse by reading “all sorts of crazy stories” in magazines following Heath’s death and seeing false rumours circulating.
“There was all this craziness around the world,” he added. “People pretending to be me and flying to New York. The police were meeting them at the airport and they were going to see my son’s body.
“If only I were there, woken him up or done something. We’re in Perth and he’s in New York and you think, God, if only I could have been there. You almost feel guilty as a parent that you weren’t there to help him out.”
Kim has since joined not-for-profit organisation ScriptWise, which aims to raise awareness of the dangers of prescription medication addiction.
He has spoken out to try and stop accidental overdoses due to the medications and is currently pushing for the government to introduce real-time prescription monitoring, attempting to stop people ‘doctor shopping’ – essentially meaning they’re going between doctors to get multiple prescriptions for the same drugs.
“[It’s like] we lose a couple of planeloads of people a year,” he told the podcast. “It’s just crazy. And there are more deaths through prescription medication than deaths for any other kind of drug use in Australia. It’s like 20 times larger. It’s just ridiculous.”
He insisted people need to talk about prescription medication addiction more, as it’s become so common, insisting: “You’re not alone.”