Lifeguard Captain Still Believes Natalie Wood 'Could Have Been Saved'

'60s Screen Siren

Wood, seen here circa 1960, was at the top of her game in the '60s with screen credits that included West Side Story, Splendor in the Grass and Gypsy.

Former county supervising rescue boat captain Roger Smith is optimistic that answers will be given over why lifeguards were not immediately alerted of the actress' disappearance in 1981.

With the investigation of Natalie Wood's death 30 years ago under way, people who were close to the case then are speaking out about what could have happened in 1981.

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Lifeguard captain, Roger Smith, who pulled Wood's body from the water is still under the impression that the actress could have been saved had a search began earlier, the Los Angeles Times reports. The former county supervising rescue boat captain was optimistic that by police reopening Wood's case, the investigation into her death would provide answers over why there was a lull before lifeguards were alerted of the actress' disappearance.

“Based on the condition of her body when we pulled her from the water, I believe she survived for sometime in the water and was blown out to sea. She probably cried for help for hours,” Smith said. “I’ve always believed she could have been saved. Her fingers were still pliable when she was pulled from the water, suggesting she had not been dead for hours.”

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Wood disappeared off Catalina Island on Thanksgiving weekend in 1981 during a trip with her husband, actor Robert Wagner and Brainstorm co-star Christopher Walken.

The original cause of death was determined to be an accidental drowning that occured when Wood fell into the water while attempting to tie a loose dinghy on the yacht, Splendour, but many have questioned the events of that night, including her sister, Lana Wood, and the yacht's captain, Dennis Davern, who more than a year ago were both calling for the department to reopen its investigation. The actress was 43.

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Smith noted that he was notified at 5:11 a.m. the day Wood went missing from her boat about 200 feet from the Isthmus, about four hours after she disappeared. A lifeguard boat was about 100 feet away the entire time, Smith recalled.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department reopened the investigation into Wood's death on Nov. 17. Investigators revealed that new information was behind the decision to revisit the events of Nov. 29, 1981.