New Book Claims River Phoenix Could Have Survived Overdose

New Book Claims River Phoenix Could Have Survived Overdose

He was one of the most promising stars of his generation. River Phoenix shot to fame in the coming of age film Stand by Me, and even did a turn as a young Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

But 20 years ago this Halloween, that promising career was cut short when River died from a lethal mix of heroin and cocaine at a Hollywood nightclub. He was only 23.

Now, author Gavin Edwards is saying that River Phoneix might have lived if paramedics were called sooner.

INSIDE EDITION's Jim Moret questioned Edwards, "You're telling me that you that if an ambulance had been called earlier, River Phoenix might be alive?

"I absolutely think that, yes." replied Edwards.

Edwards is the author of the new book, Last Night at the Viper Room.

Back in 1993, the Viper Room nightclub was the young Hollywood hangout. The night Phoenix died, it was packed with future stars. Johnny Depp was there and was part owner of the club. Married with Children star Christina Applegate was insid, and so was Phoenix's then-girlfriend, actress Samantha Mathis.

River went there with his guitar hoping to play on stage with Johnny Depp, but he never made it.

Someone handed River a drink he didn't know was laced with the deadly drug mixture, and he  immediately began convulsing. His 19-year-old brother, Joaquin, took him outside for fresh air.
But Edwards said Joaquin waited almost a half-an-hour to make the frantic call to 911.

Recordings of the 911 call show just how panicked Joaquin was.  

Joaquin:  "You must get over here please, you must get over here please!  Please cause he's dying, please!  He's having seizures on Sunset and Larrabee please come here."                           

Operator:  "Hey sir?"

Joaquin:  "Yes." 

Operator: "Stay on the line with me and calm down a little bit, alright?"

Joaquin:  "OK, I'm calm but he's having seizures."

As River was dying on the sidewalk, an unsuspecting Christina Applegate walked out of the club and onto the horrific scene. Christina Applegate had no idea that it was River Phoenix dying on the sidewalk. She saw this and was sort of horrified, walked around the corner and burst into tears.
The young actors who were witnesses to the tragedy have all gone on to giant careers.

Johnny Depp is one of the most in demand actors in the world. Christina Applegate is still going strong in the Anchorman movies. Samantha Mathis is starring in the CBS drama Under the Dome. And Joaquin went on to huge success and was nominated for an Oscar when he played opposite Russell Crowe in Gladiator.

Those who knew River best, like Harrison Ford, still mourn a young talent gone far before his time.

Harrison told INSIDE EDITION, "I still have very warm memories of the work I did with River and the time we spent together. I really treasure those memories."