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Liam Neeson reflects on death of wife Natasha Richardson

Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson, pictured in October 2008.
Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson, pictured in October 2008. Max Nash / Getty Images

TORONTO — Liam Neeson has opened up about the death of his wife, actress Natasha Richardson, following an accident at a Quebec ski resort five years ago.

“I was told she was brain dead,” Neeson told Anderson Cooper in an interview for this week’s 60 Minutes. “I’m seeing this X-ray and it was like, wow.”

Neeson got the grim news from doctors at Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal.

On March 16, 2009, Richardson was taking a private ski lesson at Mont Tremblant, about 130 kilometres from Montreal, when she fell and struck her head.

Back in her hotel room about an hour after the fall, Richardson complained of a severe headache. She was rushed to Hôpital Laurentien and then airlifted to Sacré-Cœur.

Neeson, who was filming Chloe in Toronto, flew to Montreal to be at his wife’s side.

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“She was on life support and stuff,” he recalled. “I went in to her and I just told her I loved her said, ’Sweetie, you’re not coming back from this, you banged your head. I don’t know if you can hear me but this is what’s gone down. We’re bringing you back to New York, all your family and friends will come,’ and that was more or less it.”

Neeson told 60 Minutes he and his wife of 14 years had a pact that if either was in a vegetative state, “we’d pull the plug.”

The actor took Richardson home aboard a private jet on March 17 and she was taken off life support at Lenox Hill Hospital the following day.

Richardson was 45.

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Neeson admitted her death still doesn’t feel real.

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“There’s periods now in our New York residence when I hear the door opening, especially the first couple of years…anytime I hear that door opening, I still think I’m going to hear her,” he said.

“It hits you. It’s like a wave. You just get this profound feeling of instability…the Earth isn’t stable anymore and then it passes and it becomes more infrequent, but I still get it sometimes.”

Neeson said Richardson lives on in three other people because her heart, kidneys and liver were donated.

“It’s terrific…and I think she would be very thrilled and pleased by that,” he said.