Almost two years after actress Natasha Richardson died as a result of head injuries suffered in a fall at Quebec's Mont Tremblant ski resort, her widower Liam Neeson has spoken out about his experience at a "Dickensian" hospital in Montreal.
In the March issue of Esquire Magazine, Neeson reflects on his late wife's death in March 2009, after a seemingly benign fall on a bunny hill at the popular Tremblant resort during a private ski lesson.
'I walked into the emergency — it's like 70, 80 people, broken arms, black eyes, all that — and for the first time in years, nobody recognizes me. Not the nurses. The patients. No one. And I've come all this way, and they won't let me see her.' —Liam Neeson, actor
At the time, Neeson was in Toronto on location for the Atom Egoyan film Chloe.
In the article, Neeson remembers arriving at the Sacré-Coeur Hospital in Montreal where his wife was taken several hours after her fall.
Neeson had been to Montreal "maybe twice before" and recalls being surprised at the size of the hospital.
"I thought that it was this little, comfortable, little city," he told the magazine. "And for some reason, I thought the hospital that I was in a taxi racing toward was gonna be a nice little hospital."
"But it was this huge, glassy, black place. A Dickensian place."
Neeson, the star of films including Schindler's List and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, says nobody at the hospital seemed to know who he was.
"I walked into the emergency — it's like 70, 80 people, broken arms, black eyes, all that — and for the first time in years, nobody recognizes me," he told Esquire. "Not the nurses. The patients. No one. And I've come all this way, and they won't let me see her."
'Talk and die' condition
Neeson says he spotted two nurses outside having a cigarette — and one of them recognized him.
"And this one, she says, 'Go in that back door there.' She points me to it. 'Make a left. She's in a room there.' So I get there, just in time," Neeson told the magazine.
"And all these young doctors, who look all of 18 years of age, they tell me the worst .… The worst."
Richardson had suffered an epidural hematoma in her ski hill stumble. A fatal blood clot caused by a blow to her brain had rapidly formed under her skull.
With what's known commonly as a "talk and die" condition, patients often feel fine immediately after their injury. Within hours, however, a blood clot forms and cuts off circulation in the brain.
Neeson at her side, Richardson was transferred to a New York City hospital, where she died March 18. She was 45.
Neeson went back to shooting Chloe after the funeral. He tells Esquire that he was still in shock and that the impact of Richardson's death hit him at at random moments.
Richardson was part of Britain's Redgrave theatrical family dynasty. Her film credits included Nell and The Parent Trap.
Her death renewed debate about safety standards for downhill ski centres in Quebec. Richardson was not wearing a helmet at the time of her accident.