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Death of Diana, Princess of Wales




On 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales died as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident 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 of the accident. 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 ultimately 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.[1] An 18-month French judicial investigation concluded in 1999 that the crash was caused by Paul, who lost control of the car at high speed while drunk. His inebriation may have been made worse by the simultaneous presence of an anti-depressant and traces of a tranquilizing anti-psychotic in his body.[2][3]
 
Since 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,[4] and later contended that the crash was orchestrated by MI6 on the instructions of the Royal Family.[5] His claims that the crash was a result of a conspiracy were dismissed by a French judicial investigation[2] and by Operation Paget, a Metropolitan Police Service inquiry that concluded in 2006.[6]
 
 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 and was a continuation of the original inquest that began in 2004.[7] On 7 April 2008, the jury concluded that Diana and Dodi were unlawfully killed by the "grossly negligent driving of the following vehicles and of the Mercedes" adding that 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

Circumstances

On 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.[9] They had stopped there en route to London, having spent the preceding nine days together on board Mohamed al-Fayed's yacht, the 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 and located 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 through Paris in order to elude the paparazzi;[10] a decoy vehicle left the Ritz first, attracting a throng of photographers. Diana and Fayed then departed from the hotel's rear entrance at around 12:20 am (31 August 1997), 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 front passenger seat.
 
They left from the rear of the hotel, the Rue Cambon exit. After crossing the Place de la Concorde they drove along Cours la Reine and Cours Albert 1er (the embankment road running parallel to the River Seine) into the Place de l'Alma underpass.[11] 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 105 km/h (65 mph).[12] 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. 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.
 
As the victims lay in the wrecked car, the photographers continued to take pictures. Critically injured, Diana was reported to murmur repeatedly, "Oh my God," and after the photographers were pushed away by emergency teams, "Leave me alone."[13]
 
Dodi Fayed had been sitting in the left rear passenger seat and appeared to be dead. Nevertheless, fire officers were still trying to resuscitate him when 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, 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 two forward passengers' airbags had functioned normally. None of the car's occupants were wearing a seat belt.
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,[14] 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 the scene 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, Diana's heart started beating again. She was moved to the SAMU ambulance at 1:18 am. The ambulance departed the crash scene at 1:41 am and arrived at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital at 2:06 am.[15] 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, which tore the pulmonary vein and the pericardium. Despite lengthy resuscitation attempts, including internal cardiac massage, she died at 4 am.[16] 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.[citation needed]
 
Many have speculated that if Diana had worn a seat belt, her injuries would have been less severe.[17] 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 French and British investigations concluded that none of the occupants of the car was wearing a seat belt at the time of the impact.[N 1][N 2]
Later that morning, Chevènement, 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 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 actual 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 for speed. On the other hand, Daimler Benz, producer of the car, reported that "when a Mercedes crashes, the speedometer automatically goes back to zero."[citation needed] At any rate, the car was certainly travelling much faster than the legal speed limit of 50 km/h (31 mph), and faster than was prudent for the Alma 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 come forward, and the vehicle itself has not officially been identified.
 
An eighteen-month French judicial investigation concluded in 1999 that the car crash that killed Diana was caused by Paul, who lost control of the car at high speed while intoxicated.[20]
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