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John Travolta Faced $25m Extortion after His Son’s Death from People Who Tried to Save Him

Titi Dokubo
Jan 09, 2022
07:15 P.M.

Nothing is more painful than the loss of a loved one. When John Travolta's son Jett died of a heart attack in 2009, the actor saw the world crumble around him for the first time.


The loss of Jett was made all the more severe since it was followed by a controversy where two individuals tried to extort $25 million from John Travolta.

While this case marred the teenager's death, John Travolta found it difficult to overcome this tragedy. Here's all that happened and how John dealt with it.

John Travolta on Jimmy Kimmel Live (left), John Travolta leaving the 'Relais Plaza' restaurant with his son Jett Travolta on November 03, 2008, in Paris (right) | Photo: Getty Images, Youtube.com/Jimmy Kimmel Live Getty Images

John Travolta on Jimmy Kimmel Live (left), John Travolta leaving the 'Relais Plaza' restaurant with his son Jett Travolta on November 03, 2008, in Paris (right) | Photo: Getty Images, Youtube.com/Jimmy Kimmel Live Getty Images



Jett Travolta was found dead on January 2, 2009, in the vacation home where he stayed with his parents on the Caribbean island of the Bahamas.

Jett was the first son born to famous American Actor John and Actress, Kelly Preston who he married in 1991. His life was cut short at 16 after falling while experiencing seizures.

When one of his nannies discovered Jett on the bathroom floor, she quickly alerted John and Preston, who ran downstairs. They found his second nanny and a woman from the Old Bahama Bay performing CPR on Jett.

John Travolta and son Jett Travolta attending "Phenomenon" premiere in Los Angeles in 1996 | Photo: Getty Images

John Travolta and son Jett Travolta attending "Phenomenon" premiere in Los Angeles in 1996 | Photo: Getty Images


John took over the CPR while another guest of the resort with medical experience helped him with the chest compressions and fitted Jett with a defibrillator.

They called the paramedics, and once they arrived with the ambulance, John knew it was too late to save Jett. The Paramedic Tarino Lightbourne revealed that John hugged Jett and proclaimed his love for him while crying.

Lightbourne also said John told Jett that he did everything he could. After bidding his son farewell, John hugged Lightbourne and told him they had done a wonderful job.



Shortly after the death of his son, John filed a complaint against Senator Pleasant Bridgewater and Paramedic Lightbourne. He accused them of trying to extort $25 million from him.

The complaint led to Lightbourne's arrest. He was charged with attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion. Lightbourne pleaded that he was not guilty.

The case revolved around the "refusal to transport" document that John had signed when Lightbourne arrived with the ambulance. Lightbourne reported that John wanted Jett to be taken to Florida instead of Rand Memorial Hospital on the island.


Lightbourne refused as it was against protocols. He then asked John to sign the "refusal to transport" document. After John had signed it, he changed his mind and allowed the paramedics to take Jett to Rand Memorial Hospital.

Seeing as they no longer needed the document, Lightbourne confessed to stashing a copy of the form at his home. He wanted to keep it as an autographed document.

He then claimed that John's attorney called to offer him money to return the document. Lightbourne decided to meet with John's attorney through a fixed meeting by Pleasant Bridgewater, a Bahamian senator and a lawyer.


The meeting, which was secretly taped, revealed that Lightbourne agreed to hand over the document for $15 million. He reportedly wanted to use some of the money to set up a center for down-and-outs.

The case, which went to court, dragged on for longer than John expected it. He then made a statement that the long-pending status of the case was taking a heavy emotional toll on his family, so they had decided to put the matter behind them.

After the case was dropped, Lightbourne made a statement calling himself the "real victim." He said he was paraded as a common criminal, thrown in jail, and lost his job in the process.


Lightbourne wished the trial had continued so he could clear his name and regain his dignity. He said he knew he was being entrapped and was only trying to play along.

During the trial, John revealed that Jett was autistic and had suffered from Kawasaki disease since he was two to the public for the first time.

These diagnoses had caused their son to have seizures every five to 10 days, lasting 45 seconds to minutes. Once relieved, Jett would sleep for hours.



Jett's death took a toll on John. It was the worse thing that had ever happened to him, and he wasn't sure he would make it. He said:

"Life was no longer interesting to me, so it took a lot to get me better."

Acknowledging the Scientology family and his wife for helping him move on, John Travolta created the Jett Travolta Foundation. The foundation is to help children with special needs in memory of their son.


Besides losing his son, John had to deal with the trauma of losing his wife on July 12, 2020, to breast cancer at 57. Despite her health battles in the last two years of her life, Preston kept her health problems a secret.

Her death was difficult for John to process as he had to look after their two children, Ella and Benjamin. Ella was 20 years old when her mother died, but Benjamin was only nine.

With the losses he has faced, John said he had learned one thing from it all. He now believes that mourning is a "personal" experience, and finding joy has become his priority.


Despite their fame, John and Preston had an enviable relationship that defied the obstacles Hollywood couples are faced with. The couple met in 1987 while casting for "The Experts."

At the time of their meeting, Preston was married to another actor, Kevin Gage. However, her marital status did not stop John from falling in love with her at first sight.

After her divorce, she took a break before reconnecting with John. They dated for about a year before John proposed with a six-carat yellow-and-white diamond ring.

The couple got married in an unannounced ceremony in France on September 5, 1991, by a Scientology minister. At this time, Preston was already pregnant.

They welcomed Jett on April 13, 1992. On April 3, 2000, they welcomed their second child, a daughter named Ella Bleu. On November 23, 2010, they welcomed their last child, Benjamin.

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