Prince's Protégée Opens Up About Their Relationship and the Night His Plane Made an Emergency Landing to Save His Life
Judith Hill told the New York Times that despite her close relationship with Prince, she was unaware of his addiction
Judith Hill was more than Prince‘s protégé.
The “Purple Rain” singer shared an intimate friendship with the 32-year-old, as he mentored Hill, assisting with her career – helping her out of her record deal with a major label, allowing her to open shows for him, and placing her album in a local Minnesota record store; where it was to be treated as his own album would be, Hill told the New York Times.
Careful not to describe their relationship as romantic, the singer added that she had a deep connection with the 57-year-old music icon, who died in April.
“There was a very intense relationship. I deeply cared for him,” Hill said, admitting that before he died, “He told me that he loved me and that he would always be there for me.”
But on April 21, Hill found that Prince could no longer keep his promise, as he had been found unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate, where he died less than 30 minutes later.
Just one week before his unexpected death, Prince had been rushed to the hospital when his private plane made an emergency landing in Moline, Illinois after he fell unconscious during the flight. What made his death more shocking was that Prince was said to have only been treated for the flu.
However, it was later revealed that he was actually treated by paramedics who met him at the airport, where they reportedly administered a shot of Narcan, usually used to treat opioid overdoses.
Prince was immediately taken to Trinity Moline Hospital, but Hill – who was aboard the plane and in the middle of a conversation with the Grammy winner when he lost consciousness – told the Times that she and Prince’s aide, Kirk Johnson, knew something was seriously wrong at the time of landing.
WATCH: Celebrities React to Prince’s Sudden Death
“We knew it was only a matter of time; we knew we had to get down. We didn’t have anything on the plane to help him,” she added, before revealing, “I thought he was gone.”
Although Hill reportedly described Prince as being alert and talkative by the time they arrived at the hospital, she also said that he only stayed over night at the urging of his friends.
“He wasn’t dreary or drowsy or anything,” she added. “He wanted to watch Zootopia. He loved those films. I was going to pull it up on my phone. He said: ‘No, no, no, not here. We’re going to pick a special time and place to watch that.'”
While the two were close, Hill told the newspaper that she wasn’t aware of Prince’s struggle with prescription painkillers, and that he never complained about pain or showed any sign that he was struggling with it.
She also revealed that during their time at the hospital, she believed his initial brush with death was a one-time thing, as she said Prince seemed “serious about getting help” while he was in Moline.
Although Prince conceded to getting help and even went as far as undergoing tests with an a California-based addiction specialist, he still played down the seriousness of the plane incident to those closest to him.
“He did it because he was concerned, and he wanted to do the right thing for his own body,” Hill told the Times. “And that’s the part that breaks my heart, because he was trying. He was trying.”
In the end, help came too little too late, as Prince’s death was ruled an accidental overdose of the drug fentanyl – an extremely potent, synthetic opiate.
Speaking to PEOPLE about the severe consequences of long-term fentanyl use, addiction expert and founder of Origins Behavioral Healthcare, Ben Levenson told PEOPLE that fentanyl was never intended for treating pain management. Rather, its potency lends itself to making death experiences less painful for terminal patients.
“It hits you fast and it wears off fast, so it’s not a good drug for someone who is, for instance, recovering from knee surgery, although it’s widely prescribed. It was never designed for that,” Levenson, a recovered addict himself told PEOPLE. “Ultimately, you end up with overdoses and fatalities because of tolerance. They’re not getting the effect so they take more and more and more, but there’s a point when more is deadly. Long term fentanyl use leads to death.”