The story of Princess Diana’s death at age 36 in a horror crash at the entrance to the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris continues to shock after a quarter-century.
The nearby flame of Liberty – a golden replica of the torch from the Statue of Liberty – has become an unofficial memorial site that attracts Diana fans of all generations and nationalities.
Just as the death of the “people’s princess” stirred huge emotion 25 years ago, today the tragedy that was her life still resonates - even for those born after her passing.
Diana’s popularity remains intact with the British people, while her story has had a lasting impact on the British royal family and the world.
Shortly after midnight on 31 August, 1997, the princess of Wales and her boyfriend, Egyptian film producer Dodi al-Fayed, left the Ritz Hotel in a black Mercedes.
They were accompanied by the hotel’s deputy head of security, Henri Paul, the driver, and by British bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones. Only the latter would survive.
After crossing Place de la Concorde, the car entered the Pont de l’Alma tunnel at 12:23am, when Paul – who had been drinking – lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a pillar.
The first doctor on the scene was Frenchman Frederic Mailliez who, in an interview with the Associated Press, has recounted what happened that fateful night.
The 25-year anniversary is stirring up memories, Mailliez said, adding they also come back “each time I drive through the Alma tunnel”.
Mailliez, who had no idea who Diana was as he tried to save her under the watchful eyes of the paparazzi, admits he still “feels a little responsible for her last moments”.
The doctor had been driving into the tunnel when he spotted the mangled Mercedes with its four occupant – two of whom had been killed instantly.
Diana, he said, was on her knees on the floor of the Mercedes. “She had her head down. She had difficulty breathing. She needed quick assistance.”
Although Mailliez was able to help Diana, who was unconscious, breathe using a respiratory bag his efforts were ultimately in vain and she died shortly after being taken to hospital.
It was only afterwards he learned, along with the rest of the world, that the woman he treated a British royal figure adored by millions.
“I realise my name will always be attached to this tragic night,” Mailliez said.