Family Spokesman: Autopsy Confirms NJ Native Died Of A Heart Attack

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Gov. Chris Christie has ordered flags to fly at half-staff Monday in honor of “Sopranos” star James Gandolfini, who died Wednesday night while vacationing in Italy.

An autopsy confirmed that the New Jersey native and actor died of a heart attack, with no evidence of substance abuse or foul play, a family spokesman said Friday.

“Today we received the results of the autopsy which stated that he died of a heart attack, of natural causes. The autopsy further states that nothing else was found in his system,” spokesman Michael Kobold told reporters.

PHOTOS: Remembering James Gandolfini

Kobold told reporters that Gandolfini’s body has been released to a funeral director and that the family was working with the Italian government to speed up the bureaucratic red tape to get the body back to the United States soon.

While the process can take up to 10 days, Kobold said the family was hoping to have the body repatriated by mid-week with a funeral planned in New York by June 29 at the latest.

Gandolfini had arrived in Rome on Tuesday and spent his first full day in the Eternal City with his teenage son, visiting the Vatican and dining in the hotel, the luxury Boscolo Exedra. They dined together in the hotel on Wednesday night, awaiting the arrival in Rome of Gandolfini’s sister, Leta.

“He had a wonderful day,” Kobold said of the father-son vacation.

The 51-year-old died Wednesday night. His body was discovered in a Rome hotel room by a family member. Asked if Gandolfini had a history of heart problems, Kobold said he was healthy, CBS 2’s Dana Tyler reported.

“There’s nothing out of the ordinary. It was a heart attack. It was a natural cause,” he said. “There was no foul play, no substance abuse. None of that.”

Gandolfini grew up in Park Ridge, N.J. and attended Rutgers University.

His portrayal of criminal Tony Soprano in HBO’s landmark drama series “The Sopranos” was just one facet of his rich legacy as an actor in movies and plays.

“James Gandolfini was an iconic actor and will be remembered for the timeless impact he left upon television and film in the State of New Jersey and across our nation,” Christie said in a statement Friday.

Friends said that Gandolfini’s death hit them hard.

“I worked with him quite a bit and it was a pleasure to work with him, you know,” Sopranos actor Steve Schirripa told WFAN’s Mike Francessa, “A girl came up to me and she said I’m very sorry. The whole city is sad, you know.”

Gandolfini was to have helped preside over the closing ceremony on Saturday of the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily. The festival instead is organizing a tribute to him.

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