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Princess Diana Death

Princess Diana Car Accident
Princess Diana Death
On August 31, 1997, Princess Diana dies as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident in the Pont de l'Alma road tunnel in Paris, France. Both her companion, Dodi Fayed, and the driver of the Mercedes-Benz W140, Henri Paul, would be pronounced dead at the scene. Fayed's bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, would be the only survivor. While initially blaming the paparazzi for their deaths, after an 18 month investigation, the Princess Diana crash was ultimately found to be caused by the reckless actions of Henri Paul, the chauffeur, who lost control of the car at high speed while drunk. His inebriation may have been made worse by the presence of both an anti-depressant and traces of a tranqulizing anti-psychotic in his body.

Princess Diana, Dodi Fayed
Princess Diana Death
On August 30, 1997, Diana and Dodi Fayed, son of Mohamed al-Fayed and owner of the Hôtel Ritz Paris, arrived in Paris, France en route to London. Having spent the preceding nine days together on the French and Italian Riviera, onboard Dodi's father's yacht, the Jonikal, they had intended to stay overnight at a apartment owned by al-Fayed, located in Rue Arséne Houssaye, a short distance from the hotel, just off the Avenue des Champs Elysées.

Princess Diana, Hotel Ritz Paris
Princess Diana Death
Henri Paul, the Acting Head of Security at the Ritz Hotel, had been instructed to drive the black 1994 Mercedes-Benz S280, registration number "688 LTV 75", through Paris in order to elude the paparazzi. A decoy vehicle left the Ritz first, attracting a throng of photographers, leaving Diana and Fayed to then depart from the hotel's rear entrance, around 12:20 am on August 31, 1997 to return to the apartment. They were the rear passengers in the Mercedes-Benz driven by Paul. Trevor Rees-Jones, a member of the Fayed family's personal protection team, was in the front passenger seat.

Princess Diana, Henri Paul
Princess Diana Death
They would leave the hotel and, after crossing the Place de la Concorde, drive along Cours la Reine and Cours Albert 1er into the Place de l’Alma underpass. At around 12:23 am, at the entrance to the tunnel, their driver lost control; the car swerved to the left of the two-lane carriageway before colliding head-on with the 13th pillar supporting the roof at an estimated speed of 65 mph. It then spun and hit the stone wall of the tunnel backwards, finally coming to a stop. The impact of the crash caused substantial damage, particularly to the front half of the vehicle. As the victims lay in the wrecked car, the photographers continued to take pictures. Critically injured, Diana was reported to repeatedly murmur "oh my God," and, after the photographers were pushed away by emergency teams, "leave me alone".

Princess Diana car accident
Princess Diana Death
Dodi Fayed had been sitting in the left rear passenger seat and appeared to be dead. Fire officers would still try to resuscitate him, after he was pronounced dead by a doctor at 1:32 am. Henri Paul was declared dead on removal from the wreckage. Both were taken directly to the Institut Médico-Légal (IML), the Paris mortuary. Autopsy examination concluded that Paul and Fayed had both suffered a rupture in the isthmus of the aorta and a fractured spine, with, in the case of Paul, a medullar section in the dorsal region and in the case of Fayed a medullar section in the cervical region. Still conscious, Rees-Jones had suffered multiple serious facial injuries. The front passenger airbags had functioned normally, but none of the car's occupants were wearing seat belts.

Princess Diana car accident
Princess Diana Death
Diana, who had been sitting in the rear right passenger seat, was still conscious. It was first reported that she was crouched on the floor of the vehicle with her back to the road. It was also reported that a photographer who saw Diana described her as bleeding from the nose and ears with her head rested on the back of the front passenger's seat. He tried to remove her from the car but her feet were stuck. Then he told her that help was on the way and to stay awake. There was no answer from Diana, just blinking.

In June 2007, the Channel 4 documentary Diana: The Witnesses in the Tunnel claimed that the first person to touch Diana was Dr. Maillez, who chanced upon the scene. He reported that Diana had no visible injuries but was in shock and he supplied her with oxygen.

Princess Diana, Dodi Al-Fayed
Princess Diana Death
Police patrol officers would arrive at the scene and, shortly afterwards, arrest the seven paparazzi who were on the scene. By 1:00 am, Diana as removed from the vehicle and went into cardiac arrest. Following external cardiopulmonary resuscitation, her heart started beating again. She was moved to the SAMU ambulance at 1:18 am. The ambulance departed at 1:41 am and arrived at the Pitié-Salpétriére Hospital at 2:06 am. Despite attempts to save her, her internal injuries were too extensive: her heart had been displaced from the left to the right side of the chest, tearing the pulmonary vein and the pericardium. Despite lengthy resuscitation attempts, including internal cardiac massage, she died at 4 am. At 5:30, her death was announced at a press conference held by a hospital doctor, Jean-Pierre Chevénement, France's Interior Minister and Sir Michael Jay, Britain's ambassador to France.

Many have speculated that if Diana had worn a seat belt, her injuries would have been less severe. Initial media reports stated that Trevor Rees-Jones was the only car occupant to have worn a seat belt. These reports proved incorrect, as both the French1 and British2 investigations would conclude that none of the occupants of the car was wearing a seat belt at the time of the impact.

Princess Diana dies
Princess Diana Death
Later that morning, Chevénement, together with French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, Bernadette Chirac, the wife of the French President, Jacques Chirac, and Bernard Kouchner, French Health Minister, visited the hospital room where Diana's body lay to pay their respects. After their visits, the Anglican Archdeacon of France, Father Martin Draper, said commendatory prayers from the Book of Common Prayer.

Later that day, around 2:00 pm, Prince Charles and Diana's sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes, arrived in Paris. They left with her body 90 minutes later.

Next: A Nation Cries

    1 From February 1998, Dodi's father, Mohamed Al-Fayed, the owner of the Hôtel Ritz, for which Paul worked, claimed that the crash was a result of a conspiracy, and would contend that the crash was orchestrated by MI6 on the instructions of Prince Philip. His claims would be dismissed both a French judicial investigation and by Operation Paget, a Metropolitan police inquiry that concluded in 2006.

    2 On October 2, 2007, an inquest headed by Lord Justice Scott Baker into the deaths of Diana and Dodi began at the Royal Courts of Justice, London - a continuation of the original inquest that began in 2004. On April 7,2008, the jury released an official statement that Diana and Dodi were unlawfully killed by the grossly negligent driving of chauffeur Henri Paul and the paparazzi in their pursuit of pictures of Princess Diana. Though the official verdict implicated the pursuing vehicles, the jury also named the intoxication of the driver and the victims' decisions to not wear seat-belts as contributing factors to their deaths. Additionally, the Mercedes had been traveling at over twice the legal speed limit and had long since left the paparazzi vehicles far behind by the time the accident occurred.

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Princess Diana Death Sources

  1. Death of Diana, Princess of Wales. (2011, August 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.,_Princess_of_Wales&oldid=442647510
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