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Video: Heath Ledger’s cause of death

updated 2/7/2008 9:55:25 AM ET 2008-02-07T14:55:25

Heath Ledger's death by accidental overdose should serve as a warning to others not to mix prescription drugs, his father said, calling the loss an enduring agony for his family.

The New York medical examiner announced Wednesday that the 28-year-old "Brokeback Mountain" star died from the effects of taking six types of painkillers and sedatives.

Ledger's Jan. 22 death in his Manhattan apartment promoted outpourings of grief from New York to Hollywood to his hometown of Perth, a small city on the edge of the Outback in Australia's southwest.

Family members returned home from the United States this week and were reportedly planning a private service to lay Ledger to rest. His former girlfriend Michelle Williams and the couple's 2-year-old daughter, Matilda, arrived Wednesday to attend the ceremony, News Ltd. newspapers reported.

The West Australian newspaper reported Thursday that the family was hoping to hold a wake Saturday at a Colonial-style waterfront restaurant at Cottesloe Beach, a resort village south of Perth that was a favorite spot of the actor's.

Kim Ledger, the actor's father, said in a statement released Wednesday that the family was humbled to be "among millions of people worldwide who may have suffered the tragic loss of a child."

"Few can understand the hollow, wrenching, and enduring agony parents silently suffer when a child predeceases them," he said.

He said the toxicology results should "put an end to speculation" about the cause of death.

"While no medications were taken in excess, we learned today the combination of doctor-prescribed drugs proved lethal for our boy," Kim Ledger said. "Heath's accidental death serves as a caution to the hidden dangers of combining prescription medication, even at low dosage."

Slideshow: Heath Ledger, 1979-2008 Family members attended a memorial ceremony in Los Angeles last weekend, but the funeral arrangements have been kept a closely guarded secret.

Among those reportedly due to attend are Ledger's "Brokeback Mountain" co-star Jake Gyllenhall and a former girlfriend, Australian model Gemma Ward.

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Two bouquets of red orchids were delivered Thursday to the Perth home of Ledger's mother, Sally Ledger-Bell, where relatives have been keeping a low profile since their return from the United States.

Kim Ledger's statement asked that the family be allowed to grieve without media intrusion.

Williams, 27, and Ledger became a couple during the filming of "Brokeback Mountain" in which they played a husband and wife. Ledger was nominated for an Oscar. They moved to New York and Matilda was born in October 2005.

"To most of the world Heath was an actor of immeasurable talent and promise," the actor's father said. "To those who knew him personally, Heath was a consummate artist whose passions also included photography, music, chess and directing.

"We knew Heath as a loving father, as our devoted son, and as a loyal and generous brother and friend," the statement said.

The family was profoundly touched and eternally grateful for the expressions of support that have come from all over the world, he said.

Alan Carpenter, the premier of Western Australia state, urged the news media to heed the family's appeals for privacy.

"One of the great things that Heath Ledger was able to reflect upon was that when he came back to Western Australia it was a haven where he could just walk around like a normal citizen," he said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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