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Princess Diana dead after Paris car crash

Companion Dodi Fayed, chauffeur also killed

August 31, 1997
Web posted at: 6:24 a.m. EDT (1024 GMT)

In this story:

PARIS (CNN) -- Britain's Princess Diana died early Sunday at a Paris hospital after suffering massive internal injuries in a high-speed car crash. She was 36. Her companion, Harrod's heir Dodi Fayed, and their chauffeur died at the crash scene.

Diana, Princess of Wales, died at 4 a.m. after going into cardiac arrest, doctors told a news conference at Paris' Hospital de la Pitie Salpetriere.

The death was announced at 6 a.m. by Dr. Alain Pavie, head of the cardiology department.

Prince Charles will fly from Scotland to Paris Sunday to accompany the body of his former wife on its return to Britain.

Diana and Charles' two sons, Princes William, 15, and Harry, 12, were vacationing with Charles at the royal family's Scottish home at Balmoral. Buckingham Palace said Charles had been notified of the accident and had told the children.


"The death of the Princess of Wales fills us all with shock and deep grief," said British ambassador Michael Jay, who was at the hospital.

The princess' death came after she suffered massive internal injuries, including lung damage, Christopher Dickey, Newsweek's Paris bureau chief, told CNN.

Diana also suffered severe head injuries, hospital officials told CNN.

Ambulance workers managed to revive her at the crash scene, but her heart stopped beating on arrival at the hospital, said Dr. Bruno Riou, head of the hospital's intensive care unit.

Surgeons opened Diana's injured chest, closed a wound in her heart and massaged the heart for two hours in a vain battle to save her life, he said.

"We could not revive her," Riou said.

Sir Michael Jay, Britain's ambassador to France, expresses his sympathy

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A fourth person in the car, one of the princess' bodyguards, was seriously injured in the wreck, police said.

The high-speed crash occurred shortly after midnight in a tunnel along the Seine River at the Pont de l'Alma bridge less than half a mile from the Eiffel Tower, while paparazzi -- the commercial photographers who constantly tailed Diana -- were following her car on motorcycles, police said.

Diana's car was traveling at 80 mph through the narrow tunnel, a French official said. The driver apparently lost control of the car, according to French radio, which quoted witnesses as saying the car slammed into a concrete support post, then bounced into a wall.

Eyewitnesses describe the crash scene
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  • Joanna Luz
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  • Several motorcyclists were detained for questioning after the crash, police said. A badly damaged motorcycle was taken from the scene of the accident by police.

    Seven photographers were in custody, police said.

    At least some of the photographers took pictures before help arrived, French radio said, adding that one of the photographers was beaten at the scene by outraged witnesses.

    Dickey said police were expected to press the investigation.

    "This kind of pursuit of celebrities here in Paris is something I think the French government has never been terribly happy about," Dickey said. "I think they'll pursue this very, very actively indeed."

    Witnesses heard crash

    An American witness, Mike Walker, told CNN the car in which Diana was traveling "looked like it hit the wall."

    Two other Americans visiting Paris heard the crash and ran to the scene. Joanna Luz and Tom Richardson, both of San Diego, told CNN they were walking along the Seine when they heard a bang and squealing tires under the bridge.

    They described the car as a dark blue Mercedes, with the passenger side airbag deployed, facing oncoming traffic.

    They also said they believed at least one cameraman was following the car, saying that what appeared to be a professional photographer was on the scene less than 15 seconds after the crash.

    "His equipment was very professional -- his camera was a foot and a half tall," Luz said. "It definitely was not a tourist camera."

    Early calls to British newspapers found none with reporters assigned to follow Diana in Paris. However, CNN Paris Bureau Chief Jim Bittermann said that would not be unusual; the British papers often rely on freelancers who are willing to go to great lengths to get an exclusive photograph of the princess.

    Car destroyed

    Dickey was at the scene when the Mercedes was removed from the tunnel. Its windshield was cracked, its roof collapsed, and the front of the car crunched back to the windshield.

    A wrecking crew had great difficulty recovering the car, Dickey said, because even the wheels wouldn't move. "Only the trunk of the car appears to be intact at this point," Dickey said. In the end, the car was lifted out with a crane.

    Bittermann said the highway, one of several high-speed arteries into the center of Paris, typically has very little traffic around midnight Saturday.

    There is no barrier between incoming and outgoing traffic, Bittermann said; if a car went out of control it would be nearly certain to swerve into oncoming traffic.

    The crash trapped several people in a pileup, Radio France Info reported. Police cars and vans with flashing lights filled the site outside the tunnel and officers blocked off the area.

    The car was apparently traveling without an escort.

    Diana, Fayed dined earlier in evening


    Reports said that Diana and Fayed, 42, dined at the Ritz Hotel in Paris before the accident. Fayed's family owns the Ritz Hotel chain; the car's chauffeur was also reported to be a Ritz employee.

    Diana, whose divorce from Britain's Prince Charles became official last year, had been on vacation in the south of France with Fayed last week. It was believed to be her third romantic vacation with Fayed.

    Speculation surrounding Diana and the Egyptian millionaire had been rampant ever since she was spotted embracing Fayed on a Mediterranean cruise earlier this month.

    Fayed and the princess are said to have met about 10 years ago, when he played polo against Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne.

    Fayed lived lavish lifestyle

    Films that Fayed produced or co-produced include the 1981 Oscar-winning "Chariots of Fire," "The World According to Garp," "F/X" and "Hook."

    Reportedly a multi-millionaire, Fayed had homes in London, New York, Los Angeles and Switzerland as well as a garage full of luxury cars. His 1994 marriage lasted just eight months.

    Fayed's father, self-made billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed, owns London's fabled Harrod's department store, the Hotel Ritz in Paris and has 11 homes around the world.

    Mohamed Al-Fayed had been friendly with Diana's father, the late Earl Spencer.

    Diana had been due back in Britain on Sunday to see her sons at her London home at Kensington Palace.

    Paris Bureau Chief Jim Bittermann, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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