After leaving the Hotel Ritz Paris with her boyfriend shortly after midnight on August 31, 1997, Diana got into her chaffeur-driven Mercedes S-280. At around half-past midnight, the car – which was travelling at high speeds – crashed into a pillar in a tunnel under the Alma bridge.
She was still alive when she was removed from the car at 1am but soon went into cardiac arrest. Despite later efforts to save her at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Diana’s injuries were too severe and she died at 4am. A huge outpouring of public grief followed and her subsequent funeral was watched by some 2.5 billion people across the globe.
But who are the other victims and people involved in the crash that killed one of the most famous people in the world?
Born in 1955, Dodi Fayed was the son of billionaire Harrods owner Mohamed al-Fayed. He was previously married to model Suzanne Gregard and he called off an engagement with American model Kelly Fisher shortly before entering a relationship with Diana. The pair had met at various parties throughout the years before becoming romantically involved and they holidayed together in 1997 before flying to Paris from Sardinia en route to London.
Dodi’s father owned the Hotel Ritz Paris where the pair had been staying and they both sat in the rear seats of a Mercedes-Benz S280. Following the crash, Dodi appeared to be dead at the scene but fire officers were still trying to resuscitate him when he was pronounced dead by a doctor at 1:32 am. His father has since claimed that the crash was a result of a conspiracy, orchestrated by MI6 on behalf of the Royal Family.
Deputy Head of Security at the Hotel Ritz Paris, Henri Paul was tasked with driving the car that was carrying Diana and Dodi. He had actually been off-duty on the evening of the crash but had been instructed to drive the Mercedes-Benz in order to elude photographers. CCTV footage appeared to show him waving to the press outside the hotel before driving off with his passengers. Paul lost control of the vehicle at a speed of around 65mph – around the double the speed limit. He was declared dead on removal from the wreckage.
Princess Diana was seen leaving the hotel shortly before the fatal crash (Rex)
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Subsequent tests found that Paul’s blood alcohol content level was three time higher that the drink-driving limit. British and French police investigations largely blame him for the accident, saying his driving was affected by alcohol and prescription drugs, and later driving recklessly.
Trevor Rees-Jones was Diana’s bodyguard – and the only survivor of the crash. He was born in March 1968 and enrolled in the Combined Cadet Force at school before joining the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment, serving one tour in Northern Ireland. He started work as a private security guard for Harrods owner Mohammed al-Fayed in 1995 before guarding Dodi and Diana. He travelled in the car that killed Diana but walked away as the sole survivor, suffering numerous broken bones and a flattened face that had to be surgically reconstructed. He also spent 10 days in a coma.
Due to his injuries, he remembers very little about the crash but later wrote a book about the experience based on his partial memories. He told an inquest in 2008 that he was not happy about Henri Paul’s plan to avoid photographers by leaving at the back door of the hotel as it split up security officers. He split from his first wife Sue months before the crash and married teacher Ann Scott in 2003. Rees-Jones has denied claims made by Mohamed al-Fayed that he was part of a cover-up of Diana’s death.
Photographers were desperate to catch a glimpse of Diana and Dodi together and congregated outside the Paris hotel on the night they were killed. A decoy vehicle was sent out that attracted the paparazzi before the actual vehicle went on its way. Following the crash, several photographers, who had reportedly been driving slower and were some way behind, were the first to arrive at the scene. Some rushed to help and pull out the victims but others took photographs of the devastation. The seven photographers were later arrested at the scene.
The media initially blamed the paparazzi for the crash, claiming Paul had been driving fast to avoid them following the car. Paul’s drink-driving was subsequently blamed for the accident in a French investigation but a jury concluded that Diana and Fayed were the victims of an “unlawful killing” by the “grossly negligent” chauffeur Paul and the drivers of the following vehicles in a 2008 inquest in the UK.