September 23, 2009 / 7:07 PM / 9 years ago

Travolta testifies at Bahamas extortion trial

NASSAU (Reuters) - John Travolta frantically tried to save his son by performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, the actor told a Bahamian court on Wednesday in the trial of two people accused of attempting to extort $25 million from him.

Actress Kelly Preston and her husband John Travolta (L) arrive at the 80th annual Academy Awards, the Oscars, in Hollywood, February 24, 2008. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

A former Bahamas senator, Pleasant Bridgewater, 49, and former paramedic Tarino Lightbourne, 47, are accused of conspiring and attempting to extort money from Travolta with threats. Bridgewater is also accused of abetting extortion.

Travolta, with actress wife Kelly Preston looking on, told the court how the couple raced downstairs at their Grand Bahama vacation home in a desperate bid to save 16-year-old Jett after being alerted to their son’s plight when a nanny pounded on their bedroom door.

Jett Travolta died in January during the family’s New Year’s vacation in the Bahamas. His death certificate listed the cause as seizure disorder.

Lightbourne was a paramedic at the scene. Bridgewater’s role was not clear.

The Bahamas prosecutor, Bernard Turner, testified on Tuesday that Travolta was threatened with the release of potentially damaging statements if money was not paid.

Travolta told the Bahamian Supreme Court his son was autistic and suffered from a seizure disorder that triggered a seizure every five to 10 days, lasting 45 seconds to minutes.

The actor said that around 10:15 a.m. on January 2, while staying at the Old Bahama Bay Resort, he was awakened by Eli Wheaton, one of Jett’s nannies, who was pounding on his bedroom door. The actor said he and his wife ran downstairs.

“I saw him on the bathroom floor. Jeff Kathrein, his other nanny, and a woman from Old Bahama Bay were doing CPR,” Travolta said.

The actor said he took over the CPR and that a visitor at the resort who had medical experience helped with the chest compressions and also fitted his son with a defibrillator.

An ambulance arrived after about 35 minutes, he said.

The Travoltas had traveled to the Bahamas with Jett and their 8-year-old daughter, Ella, accompanied by four nannies.

On Tuesday, the court was told by police inspector Andrew Wells that Travolta wanted his son to be flown to the United States instead of the nearest Bahamian hospital.

He said Lightbourne asked him to witness a statement confirming that Travolta waived medical treatment for his son.

Travolta said he was so focused on saving his son that he signed the medical liability release document, which is thought to be the subject of the extortion scheme, without reading it.

“Time was of the essence,” he told the court.

Editing by Doina Chiacu and Tom Brown

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