The Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood
She was born Natalia Zacharenko; July 20, 1938 – November 29, 1981
In September and October 1981, Wood and Wagner stayed in Raleigh, North Carolina, while Wood did location work for the science-fiction film Brainstorm. Wood then spent most of November in California shooting interior scenes with Christopher Walken and other cast members on the MGM lot in Culver City.
The day after Thanksgiving, Wood, Wagner and Walken went to Catalina Island for the weekend and on the night of November 28 their yacht (Splendour) was anchored in Isthmus Cove. Also on board was the boat's skipper, Dennis Davern, who had worked for the couple for many years. Wood apparently tried to either leave the yacht or secure a dinghy from banging against the hull when she accidentally slipped and fell overboard. A woman on a nearby yacht said she heard calls for help at around midnight. The cries lasted for about 15 minutes and were answered by someone else who said, "Take it easy. We'll be over to get you". "It was laid back," the witness recalled. "There was no urgency or immediacy in their shouts".
An investigation by Los Angeles County coroner Thomas Noguchi resulted in an official verdict of accidental drowning. Noguchi concluded Wood had drunk "seven or eight" glasses of wine and was intoxicated when she died. There were marks and bruises on her body which Noguchi speculated could have been received as a result of her fall. Noguchi later wrote that had Wood not been intoxicated, she likely would have realized her heavy down-filled coat and wool sweater were pulling her under water and would have removed them. Noguchi also wrote that he found Wood's fingernail scratches on the side of the rubber dinghy indicating she was trying to get in. Wood was 43 at the time of her death and is buried in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.