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The iconic comedian Robin Williams made two attempts on his life in his final hours, according to details released by the Marin County Sheriff's Department.
Lieutenant Keith Boyd said Williams was found in a bedroom by his assistant about noon on Monday (yesterday morning, NZT).
The assistant became concerned when Williams failed to respond to knocks on his bedroom door.
Gaining access to the room, the assistant found Williams' body, Boyd told a news conference.
He said 911 was called shortly before midday and "the caller was distraught ...". The star of Good Will Hunting, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning, Vietnam and dozens of other films was pronounced dead at 12.02pm (NZT 7.02am).
Boyd suggested Williams had been dead for some time and there was evidence he tried to harm himself in the hours before his death.
Williams was last seen alive by his wife, Susan Schneider, about 10pm on Sunday night (NZT 5pm Monday) when she retired for the evening. She left the next morning about 10am, thinking that her husband was still asleep.
Boyd would not say whether Williams had left a suicide note, nor if any drugs or alcohol were involved. The full toxicology report would take two to six weeks, he said, and acknowleged that Williams had been seeking treatment for depression.
In addition to his wife, Williams is survived by three grown children — daughter Zelda, and sons Cody and Zachary. Funeral arrangements are pending and his body has been released by the coroner facility in neighboring Napa County.
Comedians, politicians and several generations of fans collectively mourned the death of Williams, famous for his frenetic and freewheeling comedy.
The news of Williams' death rippled across social media, stunning fans young and old and comedians who had been influenced by Williams since he broke out in the 1970s TV comedy Mork & Mindy as a strange and lovable creature from outer space.
Williams made reference to his substance abuse and depression in his comedy routines, including when he sought treatment in 2006 after a relapse that followed 20 years of sobriety.
Williams joked: "I went to rehab in wine country to keep my options open."
Likewise, when word spread about his struggles with drugs in the early 1980s, Williams responded with a joke that for a time became a catchphrase for his generation's recreational drug use: "Cocaine is God's way of telling you you are making too much money."
Word that he had killed himself left neighbours stunned and grief-stricken.
Noreen Nieder said Williams was a friendly neighbour who always said hello and engaged in small talk. Nieder said she felt comfortable enough to approach him and ask him about his latest stint in drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
"He was very open about it," Nieder said. "He told me he was doing well."
Tributes poured out from actors, comedians, politicians and generations of fans, including President Barack Obama who called him a "one-of-a-kind" actor.
A force of manic energy, Williams long ago established himself as one of the world's most beloved comedians, and took audiences on wild flights of imagination that often stressed one simple message: seize the day.
His improvisational stand-up routine broke all rules, whether he was giving a comedic account of a nuclear accident in the style of Shakespeare or grabbing a camera from an audience member and pointing the lens down his pants.
Ben Affleck, whose breakthrough role came alongside Williams and Matt Damon in 1997's Good Will Hunting, for which Williams won his only Oscar, said he was heartbroken.
"Thanks chief - for your friendship and for what you gave the world," Affleck wrote on his Facebook page. "Robin had a ton of love in him. He personally did so much for so many people. He made Matt and my dreams come true. What do you owe a guy who does that? Everything."
Spontaneous acts of tribute sprang up at landmarks from his career.
In Boston, scores of people jotted tributes in chalk to Williams near at bench in the lush Public Garden downtown, which featured in Good Will Hunting.
Mourners hung signs including "You will be missed" and "RIP Robin" on the wooden fence of the home in Boulder, Colorado, where parts of the intro credits for his breakout 1970s TV comedy, Mork & Mindy, were filmed.
On the Hollywood Walk of Fame, fans congregated around Williams' star, leaving flowers and candles to honor the actor.
"My kids grew up on Mrs. Doubtfire," said Erlinda Fantauzzi, referring to the hit movie in which he played a father who took on the persona of a tender British nanny to be close to his kids. "I feel so bad. He was a tortured soul and he died alone. He touched adults and children," she said.
Interest in his film work has spiked, with Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Good Morning, Vietnam making it into the top 20 in the iTunes movie chart.
WHERE TO GET HELP:
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 - Provides 24 hour telephone counselling
Youthline: 0800 376 633 or free text 234 - Provides 24 hour telephone and text counselling services for young people
Samaritans: 0800 726 666 - Provides 24 hour telephone counselling.
Tautoko: 0508 828 865 - provides support, information and resources to people at risk of suicide, and their family, whānau and friends.
Alcohol & Drug Helpline 0800 787 797
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (noon to 11pm)
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (4pm - 6pm weekdays)
If it is an emergency or you feel you or someone you know is at risk, please call 111
For information about suicide prevention, see http://www.spinz.org.nz.
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