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Natalie Wood death: Detectives talked to owner of yacht

November 19, 2011 |  9:44 am


The owner of the Splendour, the yacht on which Natalie Wood died during a Thanksgiving weekend cruise with husband Robert Wagner and costar Christophe Walken, said he knew for several weeks that authorities were probing the case.

"I have known for a few weeks that there was going to be a police investigation," said Ron Nelson, who purchased the boat in 1986, in an interview with KHON-TV in Honolulu. "But I didn't know it was going to explode like it did overnight."

L.A. Sheriff's Department officials said they will travel to Hawaii to look at the boat as part of their investigation. Nelson told the news channel he uses the Splendour for charter cruises and was contacted by authorities several weeks ago. He did not reveal details of the conversation.

PHOTOS: Natalie Wood | 1938-1981

Wood, 43, was boating off Santa Catalina Island on Thanksgiving weekend 1981 with her husband, Robert Wagner, Christopher Walken and others when she somehow went overboard and died. Officials at the time ruled her death an accident, but there has since been much speculation about whether there was more to the story.

Wood and Wagner spent the holiday weekend on their 60-foot yacht, Splendour, along with Walken, then Wood's costar in the film "Brainstorm."

On the evening of Nov. 28, authorities said, the boat anchored and the trio had dinner at Doug's Harbor Reef restaurant on Catalina. Later, they returned to the yacht and had drinks. Wagner and Walken had an argument. Wagner said in a 2008 interview with The Times that the argument concerned how much of one's personal life should be sacrificed in pursuit of one's career and art.

They eventually calmed down and said good night, Wagner said, but when he went to bed, Wood wasn't there.

Wagner thought that his wife had taken a small inflatable boat by herself, as she had done before, his spokesman said after the incident. After 10 to 15 minutes passed without her returning, Wagner went to look for her on a small cruiser, the spokesman said. When he couldn't find her, he contacted the harbor patrol.

Authorities discovered Wood's body about 8 a.m. Sunday, about a mile away from the yacht. The dinghy was found beached nearby.


Robert Wagner supports inquiry into Natalie Wood's death

Yacht captain blames Robert Wagner for Natalie Wood's death

Natalie Wood investigation prompted by boat captain's comments

-- Richard Winton and Shelby Grad

Photo: Natalie Wood, with Robert Wagner, left, was vacationing on the yacht, Splendour, right, when she died. Credit: Associated Press