Prince's protégé has broken her silence.
In an interview with The New York Times published Tuesday, musician Judith Hill revealed that she was with the late singer when his plane was forced to make an emergency landing Apr. 15, just six days before his death. Including the pilot, Hill was one of four people on the plane, the others being Prince and his aide Kirk Johnson. Hill remembers sharing dinner with Prince when he went unconscious. She alerted the pilot so they could make an emergency landing in Moline, Ill. "We knew it was only a matter of time; we had to get down," Hill recalled. "We didn't have anything on the plane to help him." Eighteen minutes after landing, the ambulance took Prince to nearby Trinity Moline Hospital. By the time they arrived, the "Little Red Corvette" singer was awake and talking. Hill described that moment as "such a relief," as she "thought he was gone."
It was the first time Hill had ever seen Prince like that.
Hill did not want to discuss the details of Prince's medical treatment in Moline, but did say that he was cooperative. The singer wanted to leave the hospital, but at his friends' insistence, he agreed to stay there until morning. "He wasn't dreary or drowsy or anything," Hill remembered. "He wanted to watch Zootopia. He loved those films. I was going to pull it up on my phone. He said: 'No, no, no, not here. We're going to pick a special time and place to watch that.'"
"He was very cooperative that whole night," she added. "Serious about getting help."
Prince's plane took off for Paisley Park Apr. 6; Hill returned to L.A. soon after.
The plane incident worried Hill, so she and others encouraged Prince to seek help. He met with a California-based addiction specialist, but he still played down the seriousness of the incident. "He did it because he was concerned, and he wanted to do the right thing for his own body," Hill revealed. "And that's the part that breaks my heart, because he was trying. He was trying."
On Apr. 21, Prince was found dead at Paisley Park. In early June, Prince's death was ruled an accidental overdose of the drug fentanyl, which he had been using to manage his chronic pain.
While the Prince and Hill had been close for years, she made sure not to describe their relationship as romantic. "There was a very intense relationship. I deeply cared for him," Hill said. Before he died, "He told me that he loved me and that he would always be there for me."