February 13, 2012

Whitney Houston was found underwater, unconscious: police‎

(Reuters) - The body of pop singer Whitney Houston was flown out of a Los Angeles airport on Monday, reportedly heading home to New Jersey for funeral services, police said on Monday, after new details surfaced about the circumstances surrounding her sudden death.

Earlier in the day, Beverly Hills Police told reporters Houston's body had been found underwater in a bathtub in the Beverly Hills hotel room in which she died on Saturday, but they declined to speculate on the cause of her death at age 48.

"Ms. Houston was apparently discovered in the bathtub by a member of her personal staff," who called hotel security, Beverly Hills Police Lieutenant Mark Rosen said.

"Ms. Houston's body was pulled from the bathtub and when first responders arrived she was unconscious and unresponsive."

Rosen said first responders were told by members of the entertainer's entourage that Houston had been underwater when she was discovered at about 3:30 p.m. She did not regain consciousness and was pronounced dead about 25 minutes later.

Houston's death on the eve of the Grammy Awards stunned family, friends and fans. Some media reports, citing unnamed sources, have suggested possible accidental drowning. Others have highlighted her past drug and alcohol use.

The singer, best known for her hit single "I Will Always Love You," the theme song of "The Bodyguard" film in which she starred, had a long history of addiction to alcohol, cocaine and marijuana and had been in rehab as recently as May 2011.

Police said on Monday afternoon that a plane carrying Houston's body had taken off from a Los Angeles airport.


On Sunday, Los Angeles assistant chief coroner Ed Winter said medication was found in Houston's room, but declined to detail them. Rosen, too, declined comment on prescription drugs found in the room or the state of Houston's body when found.

Rosen said detectives had sealed their investigation to protect its integrity.

"We are not conducting a homicide investigation at this time. We do not know the cause of death, we do not know the circumstances leading up to her death," Rosen said.

An autopsy was performed on Sunday but the coroner's office has released few details pending toxicology tests that could take weeks to complete.

Earlier on Monday, celebrity website TMZ reported that Houston's body would be flown to Newark, New Jersey, for funeral services and burial. The body was being taken from Los Angeles on a jet owned by film star and producer Tyler Perry, TMZ said.

A spokeswoman for the late singer said plans for funeral and memorial services were not complete. She gave no further details. A spokeswoman for Perry was not immediately available.

Houston's former husband, Bobby Brown, traveled to Los Angeles on Sunday night after the couple's 18-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, was hospitalized suffering from anxiety, authorities said. She was later released.

Houston's brother-in-law, Billy Watson, denied in comments to ABCNews.com that the singer had any intention of committing suicide.

"Oh, no, this is accidental," he told ABCNews.com on Monday. "She wouldn't have left her daughter like that. She wouldn't have done that to her daughter.".

Watson, whose sister is married to Houston's brother, Gary, said the family is flying back to New Jersey from California on Monday and Tuesday.

Houston had been in Los Angeles for Sunday's Grammy Awards and was preparing to appear at a pre-Grammy party in Beverly Hills on the night she died.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, speaking to reporters at a press briefing, said he did not know if President Barack Obama knew Houston personally but was likely an admirer of her "immense talent."

"I know that his thoughts and prayers are with her family, especially her daughter. It's a tragedy to lose someone so talented at such a young age," Carney said.

As with the 2009 death of pop superstar Michael Jackson, Internet sales of Houston's songs have surged after her death.

On Monday, her album "Whitney Houston - The Greatest Hits" was the top seller in the music category on Amazon.com, and "I Will Always Love You," was the No. 1 download at iTunes, just ahead of Grammy winner Adele's "Rolling in the Deep."

(Additional reporting By Jill Serjeant; editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Sandra Maler)

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