In an interview with New York Times, Hill opened up about the experience. “His eyes fixed,” she said of the singer as they made their way from two performances in Atlanta, which turned out to be Prince’s final two performances, back to Prince’s Paisley Park in Minneapolis. Hill said she was only one of two passengers besides Prince. Friend and longtime aide Kirk Johnson was also aboard the plane.
Hill told the outlet that had she not been looking at Prince at the time, she may have thought he had fallen asleep. When she and Johnson found Prince unresponsive, they notified the pilot. “We knew it was only a matter of time; we had to get him down,” she recalled. “We didn’t have anything on the plane to help him.”
The plane made an emergency landing in Moline, IL, where they were met by an ambulance. Prince was given a shot of Narcan while on the tarmac, a treatment often used for opioid overdoses. Hill said that by the time they arrived at Trinity Moline Hospital, Prince was awake and speaking. She said she didn’t know at the time what had caused his medical issue. When the news initially broke, it was reported that Prince was suffering from the flu. In retrospect, it was the first public sign of a possible prescription drug addiction.
Hill, who starred in 20 Feet From Stardom, first met Prince after she revealed in an interview around the time the movie was released in 2013 that her dream collaborator was Prince. He apparently saw the interview, reached out and by 2014 they were working on her song “Back in Time.” He co-produced her 2015 debut album of the same name.
Though she said that she spent the last two years of her life with him, she maintained that Prince had never disclosed that he was in any pain. She said “he was quick on his feet. Never said anything, that this is hurting, never a sign of struggle. That’s why it’s all very shocking.”
While Hill did not get into specifics about Prince’s medical treatment while in Moline, she did reveal that she and Johnson remained by his side throughout the night and Prince was “very cooperative” and “serious about getting help.”
After their ordeal, the crew departed the next morning and she returned to Los Angeles. But, she said, she was still concerned for his well being and she alerted others of the situation. In the end, friends contacted an addiction specialist, Dr. Howard Kornfeld. Prince took other steps to get help, including undergoing a battery of tests through a local physician. “And that’s the part that breaks my heart, because he was trying,” Hill said.
Hill found out about Prince’s death on the morning of April 21st through friends’ texts.
In the hospital, he had told her, “It’s only by God’s grace that I’m even here.” She remembered, and said he added, “I had to fight for my life. I remember hearing your voices from afar and saying to myself, ‘Follow the voices, follow the voices, get back in your body, you gotta do this.’ And he said it was the hardest thing he’d ever done, to get back into his body like that.”
Watch Madonna and Stevie Wonder pay tribute to Prince at Billboard Music Awards.