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Natasha Richardson died of blunt impact, NYC medical examiner says

The cause of actress Natasha Richardson's death was an epidural hematoma caused by blunt-impact trauma to the head, the New York City medical examiner's office said Thursday.

The medical examiner formally ruled the 45-year-old's death an accident.

"It's a brain hemorrhage," said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner. "It's hemorrhaging on the brain and within the brain."

Last night at 8 p.m., Broadway theaters - where Richardson's work drew critical acclaim and she won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Sally Bowles in "Cabaret" - were to dim their lights for one minute in tribute. Meanwhile, Richardson's family, including husband Liam Neeson, the couple's two sons and her mother, actress Vanessa Redgrave, undertook the heartbreaking task of preparing for her funeral.

Arrangements were being handled by Greenwich Village Funeral Home on Bleecker Street. The funeral home declined comment yesterday.

The blunt-impact trauma - which occurred when Richardson fell Monday while skiing at Quebec's Mont Tremblant resort - sent blood from vessels close to the point of impact rushing to the area between her skull and the dural membrane, which serves as the brain's covering.

Richardson died Wednesday at Lenox Hill Hospital on Manhattan's East Side. She was moved there on Tuesday from the Hopital du Sacre-Coeur in Montreal.

Richardson's spill on a beginner's ski slope initially was believed to be minor. She turned down medical treatment, and the resort's ski patrol took her by sled to the bottom of the hill and accompanied her back to the hotel.

When she complained of a severe headache about an hour later, an ambulance rushed her to a nearby hospital. She soon was transferred to the hospital in Montreal.

Richardson's family then made the decision to move her to Lenox Hill, where friends and family - among them her sister, Joely Richardson of the television show "Nip/Tuck," and her aunt, actress Lynn Redgrave - made a mournful pilgrimage to say goodbye before she was taken off life support Wednesday.

- Click here to see photos of Natasha Richardson through her life

- Photos: Celebrities pay tribute to Natasha Richardson

- Sign Natasha Richardson's guestbook

- Photos of Natasha Richardson's family at Lenox Hill hospital in NYC, and the Quebec ski resort

- Click here to see photos of more celebrity deaths that shocked us

Click here to see photos of more stars who died too young

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