Natasha Richardson's death 'was never real' for husband Liam Neeson

It's been nearly five years since actress Natasha Richardson died suddenly after a skiing accident in Canada in 2009, and her husband, actor Liam Neeson, said it's still hard to believe she's gone.

In a new "60 Minutes" interview, the 61-year-old star tells host Anderson Cooper that sometimes, he still thinks it's going to be his wife when he hears a door opening in their New York home. "(Her death) was never real. It still kind of isn't," he said.

Neeson, who stars in the upcoming action film "Non-Stop," also shared the heartbreaking moments when he saw his wife after her accident. When he finally made it to her bedside after being denied access because nobody recognized him at the Montreal hospital, Neeson said he knew what had to be done.

"I was told she was brain dead, I'm seeing this X-ray, it was like, 'Wow,'" he recounted during the interview. "I just told her I loved her, said, 'Sweetie, you're not coming back from this. You banged your head. It's ... I don't know if you can hear me, but it's ... this is what's gone down. We're bringing you back to New York, and your family and friends will come.' "

She died March 18 at a Manhattan hospital, two days after her accident. Richardson was 45.

The autopsy noted her official cause of death as an epidural hematoma. According to the Mayo Clinic, an epidural hematoma occurs when a blood vessel ruptures, causing the blood to form a mass that compresses the brain tissue. 

The actor explained that there was no hesitation to remove his wife from life support. "She and I had made a pact: If any of us go into a vegetative state, we'd pull the plug," he said. "So when I saw her and saw all these tubes and stuff, that was my immediate thought, was, 'OK, these tubes have to go. She's gone.' "

Neeson also revealed that his wife "is keeping three people alive." The actress' heart, liver and kidneys were donated.

"It's terrific," the actor said of donating her organs. "I think she would be very thrilled and pleased with that too."

  • Slideshow Photos

    Image: Natasha Richardson

    Reflecting on Richardson

    A pictorial look at actress Natasha Richardson’s life and career as a member of an acting dynasty

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    Mother and daughter -

    Natasha Richardson practices her knitting under the tutelage of her mother, actress Vanessa Redgrave, in 1968 in Rome.
    Courtesy Everett Collection
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    Evening out with dad -

    Director Tony Richardson takes his daughters Natasha, right, and Joely to the premiere of "Dead Cert" on May 9, 1974 in London.
    Harry Myers / Rex Features via Everett Collection
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    Going goth -

    Richardson, center, starred as Mary Shelley in "Gothic," a film about the night the famed author came up with the idea for her book "Frankenstein." Julian Sands, right, played her lover and Timothy Spall played Dr. Polidori.
    Courtesy Everett Collection
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    Another famous daughter -

    Richardson played the heiress-turned-abductee-turned-revolutionary Patricia Hearst in the 1988 film "Patty Hearst."
    Courtesy Everett Colleciton.
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    Life is a 'Cabaret' -

    Richardson sings while adjusting her garter in this scene from the Broadway musical revival of "Cabaret." Richardson received a Tony Award in 1989 for best actress in a musical for her work as Sally Bowles.
    Joan Marcus / AP
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    Lindsay's mom -

    Richardson starred opposite a young Lindsay Lohan in the 1998 remake of the Disney classic "The Parent Trap." In the film, she played Elizabeth James, the designer mom of the scheming identical twins, played by Lohan.
    Courtesy Everett Collection
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    Finding Mr. Right -

    Richardson, left, worked with her husband, actor Liam Neeson, right, and actress Jodie Foster in the 1994 film, "Nell."
    Courtesy Everett Collection
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    Evening out -

    Richardson, left, strikes a pose with her mother, actress Vanessa Redgrave, center, and her sister, actress Joely Richardson, as they arrive for the opening of the "Typically British" exhibition at Pompidou Center in Paris on Oct. 3, 2000.
    Michel Euler / AP
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    'Maid' for the part -

    Richardson, center, played socialite Caroline Lane opposite Amy Sedaris, left, and Jennifer Lopez in the 2002 film "Maid in Manhattan."
    Columbia Pictures
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    Date night -

    Richardson and husband Liam Neeson leave Studio 54 after the opening of "A Streetcar Named Desire" on April 26, 2005 in New York.
    Brad Barket / Getty Images
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    Playing the 'Countess' -

    Richardson poses during a Rome photocall for the 2006 film "The White Countess." In the movie, Richardson plays an exiled Russian countess who strikes up a curious relationship with a blind diplomat in 1930s Shanghai.
    Tiziana Fabi / AFP-Getty Images
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    The men in her life -

    Richardson's husband, actor Liam Neeson, left, hits the beach in St. Tropez, France, with the couple's sons, Micheal, center, and Daniel on June 13, 2008.
    INFphoto.com
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    At the party -

    Richardson was among the stars at the Vanity Fair Party to kick-off the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival in New York on April 22, 2008.
    Peter Foley / EPA
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    Star power -

    Richardson played daughter to her real-life mother, Vanessa Redgrave, in the 2007 "Evening." In the movie, Redgrave plays a dying woman who reflects on the time in her youth when she met the love of her life, as her two daughters wrestle with their mother's impending death and their own personal issues.
    Focus Features

Watch Neeson's full "60 Minutes" interview Sunday, Feb 23 at 7 p.m. on CBS. His latest film, "Non-Stop," opens Feb. 28.

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