Princess Diana Died In Car Crash, On Saturday 30 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, left Sardinia on a private jet and arrived in Paris, France, with Dodi Fayed, the son of Mohamed al-Fayed. They had stopped there en route to London, having spent the preceding nine days together on board Mohamed al-Fayed’s yacht Jonikal on the French and Italian Riviera. They had intended to stay overnight. Mohamed al-Fayed was and is the owner of the Hôtel Ritz Paris. He also owned an apartment in Rue Arsène Houssaye, a short distance from the hotel, just off the Avenue des Champs Elysées.
Henri Paul, the deputy head of security at the Ritz Hotel, had been instructed to drive the hired black 1994 Mercedes-Benz S280 in order to elude the paparazzi; a decoy vehicle left the Ritz first from the main entrance on Place Vendôme, attracting a throng of photographers. Diana and Fayed then departed from the hotel’s rear entrance rue Cambon at around 12:20 am (Sun 31 Aug 1997 00:20 +0200, local time), heading for the apartment in Rue Arsène Houssaye. They were the rear passengers, Trevor Rees-Jones, a member of the Fayed family’s personal protection team, was in the (right) front passenger seat.
After leaving the rue Cambon and crossing the Place de la Concorde they drove along Cours la Reine and Cours Albert 1er (the embankment road along the right bank of the River Seine) into the Place de l’Alma underpass. At around 12:23 am at the entrance to the tunnel Paul 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 105 km/h (65 mph). It then spun and hit the stone wall of the tunnel backwards, finally coming to a stop. The impact caused substantial damage, particularly to the front half of the vehicle. There was (and still is) no guard rail between the pillars to prevent this. The Place de l’Alma underpass is the only one on that embankment road that has roof-supporting pillars.
After the crash
As the victims lay in the wrecked car, the photographers, who were slower, rejoined, rushed to help, tried to open the doors and help the victims, while some of them took pictures. Critically injured, Diana was reported to murmur repeatedly, “Oh my God,” and after the photographers and other helpers were pushed away by police, “Leave me alone.”
Fayed had been sitting in the left rear passenger seat and appeared to be dead. Fire officers were still trying to resuscitate him when he was pronounced dead by a doctor at 1:32 am; Paul was declared dead on removal from the wreckage. Both were taken to the Institut Médico-Légal (IML), the Paris mortuary, not to a hospital. 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 occupants’ airbags had functioned normally. None of the occupants were wearing a seat belt.
Diana, who had been sitting in the right rear 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 described her as bleeding from the nose and ears with her head rested on the back of the front passenger 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, 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.
The first police patrol officers arrived at 12.30. Shortly afterwards, the seven paparazzi on the scene were arrested. Diana was removed from the car at 1:00 am. She then went into cardiac arrest. Following external cardiopulmonary resuscitation, her heart started beating again. She was moved to the SAMU ambulance at 1:18 am, left the scene at 1:41 am and arrived at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital at 2:06 am. Despite attempts to save her, her internal injuries were too extensive: her heart had been displaced to the right side of the chest, which tore the pulmonary vein and the pericardium. Despite lengthy resuscitation attempts, including internal cardiac massage, she died at 4 am. At 4:00 am, her death was announced at a press conference held by a hospital doctor; Jean-Pierre Chevènement, 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 Rees-Jones was the only occupant to have worn a seat belt. These reports proved incorrect, as both the French and British investigations concluded that none of the occupants were wearing their seatbelt.[N 1][N 2]
Later that morning, Chevènement, 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 and paid their last respects. After their visits, the Anglican Archdeacon of France, Father Martin Draper, said commendatory prayers from the Book of Common Prayer.
At around 2:00 pm, Diana’s former husband, Charles, Prince of Wales, and two older sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes, arrived in Paris; they left with her body 90 minutes later.
Initial media reports stated Diana’s car had collided with the pillar at 190 km/h (120 mph), and that the speedometer’s needle had jammed at that position. It was later announced the car’s speed on collision was about 95-110 km/h (60-70 mph), and that the speedometer was digital; this conflicts with the list of available equipment and features of the Mercedes-Benz W140 S-Class, which used a computer-controlled analogue speedometer, with no digital readout. On the other hand, Daimler Benz, producer of the car, reported that “when a Mercedes crashes, the speedometer automatically goes back to zero.” The car was certainly travelling much faster than the speed limit of 50 km/h (31 mph), and faster than was prudent in the underpass. In 1999, a French investigation concluded the Mercedes had come into contact with another vehicle (a white Fiat Uno) in the tunnel. The driver of that vehicle has never been traced, and the specific vehicle has not been identified.
An eighteen-month French judicial investigation concluded in 1999 that the crash was caused by Paul, who lost control at high speed while intoxicated.
On 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales died as a result of injuries sustained in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris, France. Her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and the driver of the Mercedes-Benz W140, Henri Paul, were also pronounced dead at the scene; the bodyguard of Diana and Dodi, Trevor Rees-Jones, was the only survivor. Although the media pinned the blame on the paparazzi, the crash was found to be caused by the reckless actions of the chauffeur, who was the head of security at the Ritz and had earlier goaded the paparazzi waiting outside the hotel.
Since February 1998, Dodi’s father, Mohamed Al-Fayed (the owner of the Hôtel Ritz, for which Henri Paul worked) has claimed that the crash was a result of a conspiracy, and later contended that the crash was orchestrated by MI6 on the instructions of the Royal Family. His claims were dismissed by a French judicial investigation and by Operation Paget, a Metropolitan Police Service inquiry that concluded in 2006. An inquest headed by Lord Justice Scott Baker into the deaths of Diana and Dodi began at the Royal Courts of Justice, London, on 2 October 2007, a continuation of the inquest that began in 2004. On 7 April 2008, the jury concluded that Diana and Dodi were the victims of an “unlawful killing” by the “grossly negligent” chauffeur Henri Paul and the drivers of the following vehicles. Additional factors were “the impairment of the judgment of the driver of the Mercedes through alcohol” and “the death of the deceased was caused or contributed to by the fact that the deceased was not wearing a seat-belt, the fact that the Mercedes struck the pillar in the Alma Tunnel, rather than colliding with something else”.