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Sources: Tests show Diana's driver suffered 'moderate, chronic alcoholism'

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Prosecutor: Diana's driver legally drunk

remains of wrecked car

September 1, 1997
Web posted at: 11:59 a.m. EDT (1559 GMT)

Latest developments:

PARIS (CNN) -- The driver of the Mercedes in which Princess Diana died on Sunday had a level of alcohol above the legal limit in his blood, the Paris prosecutor's office said on Monday.

"The analysis of his blood showed a concentration of alcohol at an illicit level," a statement said.

The legal limit of alcohol in a driver's blood in France is 0.5 grams per liter of blood, the equivalent of two glasses of beer or one glass of wine. Prosecutors said the driver's blood-alcohol level was 1.75 grams. That level would be the equivalent of a blood-alcohol reading of .175 percent under the U.S. system.

The development came as seven photographers were being held for a second day as police investigated who was responsible for the high-speed car crash in a Paris tunnel that killed the princess, her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and the driver, Henri Paul.

Police are investigating whether the photographers' pursuit of the car contributed to the crash.

No charges had been filed against the photographers -- six from France, one from Macedonia -- who have not been further identified by police. Under French law, police may hold suspects for up to 48 hours before freeing them or passing them to a magistrate.

Driver took special training but wasn't chauffeur

Paul was an assistant security director at the Ritz Hotel where the princess and Fayed had dinner shortly before their deaths.

Eyewitness Robin Firestone, an American tourist in Paris, describes the crash scene prior to the arrival of the police
icon 332K/30 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Paul, 41, a former commando in the French Air Force, was not a professional driver but had undergone special security driving training. He was not Fayed's regular driver.

That driver had left the hotel earlier in another vehicle as a decoy to throw motorcycle-riding photographers off the trail.

Accounts differ on location of motorcycles in tunnel

Crash site

Witnesses said the photographers, riding motorcycles, had swarmed the Mercedes sedan before it entered the 300-yard (meter), brick-lined tunnel at the Pont de l'Alma bridge along the Seine, just north of the Eiffel Tower.

A lawyer for Fayed's father, Mohamed Al Fayed, said a witness driving in front of the Mercedes saw a motorcycle zig-zagging in front of the car before the crash.

"When (the witness) entered the tunnel (where the crash occurred) he saw a motorcycle zig-zag in front of the Mercedes in his rear-view mirror," the attorney, Bernard Dartevelle, said on Monday.

The witness had come to the Ritz Hotel, owned by Mohamed Al Fayed, and had been referred to police.

That witness account, however, conflicted with some news reports that said the photographers were too far behind the speeding Mercedes to have played a direct role in the crash.

Sole survivor unable to talk

French Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement said the car was traveling at high speed and the driver apparently lost control. The car smashed into a concrete pillar in the tunnel, spun and hit a tunnel wall, crumpling in a mass of twisted steel.

There are conflicting accounts of how fast the Mercedes S-280 was traveling at the time of the crash.

A source close to the investigation said the car entered the tunnel at well over 60 miles (100 km) per hour. The newspaper Le Parisien quoted witnesses on Monday as saying it was going 90 mph or more. The speed limit is 50 kilometers per hour (30 mph).

The sole survivor of the crash, bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, was wearing a seat belt and was also protected by an air bag, which inflated at the time of the crash.

Investigators refused to say on Monday whether the princess or Fayed were wearing seat belts but sources said they were not.

Rees-Jones suffered a head contusion, a lung injury and facial injuries. His condition was described as grave but not life-threatening, and he remained in intensive care. So far he has been unable to talk to investigators.

Confiscated film being developed

Sources also said authorities hope grainy images from 20 rolls of film police confiscated from the photographers -- working mainly for the Sygma, Gamma and Sipa agencies -- will aid in the investigation. Police were developing the film as possible evidence, the sources said.

French media said Monday that several of the photographers were legitimate journalists who covered the Gulf War, the Hong Kong handover to China and other big stories -- and not paparazzi, the commercial photographers who trail celebrities and sell their pictures to the highest bidder.

By taking pictures of the car after the accident, the photographers could be charged with failing to help the victims, a crime under French law. They could also be criminally liable for fleeing the scene of an accident.

Correspondent Walter Rodgers and Reuters contributed to this report.


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