The coroner's office of Los Angeles County on Tuesday said it will be weeks before it knows if the British director Tony Scott had health problems when he jumped to his death from the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro.
Authorities say they are awaiting toxicology test results from an autopsy performed on Monday. Scott's family, meanwhile, is denying earlier reports that the "Top Gun" helmer had terminal brain cancer. Early Monday, ABC News reported on its website that the 68-year-old Scott had an inoperable brain tumor. The network, which had cited a unnamed source close to Scott, backed off from that story later in the day, stating that the "cancer report appears in doubt." But by then the report had already been picked up by dozens of outlets around the world.
On Monday evening, chief coroner Craig Harvey told the Los Angeles Times that "the family told us it is incorrect that he has inoperable brain cancer." According to TMZ, Scott's widow, Donna, told investigators that the cancer report is "absolutely false."
ABC News, of late, has made a habit of jumping the gun. Following last month's movie theater shooting massacre at a "Dark Knight Rises" screening in Aurora, Colo., the network reported that the suspect, James Holmes, may have had Tea Party connections. The report was apparently based on a single reference to an Aurora-area James Holmes listed on the Tea Party's website. Some critics faulted ABC reporter Brian Ross, who later issued an apology for the error, while others blamed the Internet's increasingly frenetic, second-by-second news cycle, which values being first over being right. Ross took further heat for reporting that the suspect's mother, Arlene Holmes, said "you have the right person" in reference to her son. She later claimed the quote was mischaracterized, and that she was referring to herself when a reporter called her at home and asked if she was Holmes' mother.
Ross was not involved in Tony Scott's brain-cancer report.
Scott, the veteran action director of such films as "True Romance" and "Unstoppable," apparently jumped to his death on Sunday afternoon, leaving a suicide note at his office and several notes to loved ones in his car. Eyewitness accounts of the incident are conflicting, with some witnesses saying the British director jumped without hesitation and others saying he "looked nervous" and "paused for a few seconds" before jumping.
TMZ also reported that at least one amateur video of Scott's jump taken with a cellphone camera is being shopped around to the highest bidder. According to the report, TMZ declined to purchase the video.
The official cause of Scott's death has been "deferred pending the receipt of additional test results that have been requested by the Deputy Medical Examiner," according to Harvey's statement.