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Diana's body arrives in Britain

Diana's body arrives in London August 31, 1997
Web posted at: 3:47 p.m. EDT (1947 GMT)

LONDON (CNN) -- The coffin carrying the body of Princess Diana arrived at an airport Sunday night near London, and was put into a hearse by an honor guard as Prince Charles and other family members watched in silence. The cortege then slowly drove away.

Flags flew at half-staff as Britons mourned the death of Diana after a car accident in Paris early Sunday morning. Also killed were her companion Dodi Fayed and the chauffeur. A body guard in the car was seriously injured.


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Arrival of Princess Diana's body to England

The coffin, draped with the official flag of the British royal family, arrived at Northolt Royal Air Force base. The body reportedly was taken to a private mortuary. No funeral plans have been announced.

Prince Charles, visibly shaken by the turn of events, and Diana's two older sisters -- Lady Jane Fellowes and Lady Sarah McCorquodale -- went to Paris to retrieve Diana's body from the Salpetriere Hospital, where doctors had desperately tried to save her.

Prince Charles and French President Jacques Chirac, who was with the prince at the hospital, thanked the doctors for their efforts.


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Brief religious service held in memory of Princess Diana

A British embassy spokesman said that before Diana's body was released by the hospital, her sisters spent a few moments alone with their sibling.

Physicians said the 36-year-old Diana died from internal bleeding stemming from major chest, lung and head injuries she suffered in the accident that also killed her companion Dodi Fayed and the chauffeur. The fourth person in the car, a bodyguard, was seriously injured. There was no word on his condition.

Attempts at heart massage failed

"Diana's body arrived in a condition of serious hemorrhage and shock. Shortly thereafter, she went into cardiac arrest," said Dr. Bruno Riou, an anesthesiologist at the hospital.

"An urgent surgery showed a severe wound to the left pulmonary vein. Despite the closure of this wound and the two-hour external and internal cardiac massage, no official respiratory circulation could be established, and she died at 4 a.m. Paris time," he said.

Diana

Fayed's body was to be flown to Alexandria for burial, according to Egyptian state television.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles said in statements early Sunday that they were "deeply shocked and distressed by this terrible news."

The Prince of Wales woke his and Diana's children, Princes William, 15, and Harry, 12, and informed them of their mother's death at Balmoral Castle, Scotland, where they were spending the summer.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said, "I feel like everyone else in this country: utterly devastated. ... She was a wonderful, warm human being."

Photographers who trailed car taken into custody

The Mercedes crashed in a tunnel at the Pont de l'Alma bridge along the Seine River. Immediately afterward, police detained seven photographers who reportedly were pursuing the car in a high-speed pursuit of photos.

Aerial of mangled crash

On Sunday afternoon, police announced a further step: The photographers had been placed in formal custody, and the probe would be handled by a special police unit usually assigned to high-priority terrorism cases.

Bernard Dartevelle, a lawyer for Dodi Fayed's father, Mohamed Al Fayed, said Sunday the family may file a civil lawsuit when the results of an investigation are complete.

The car was traveling at 80 to 85 mph (128 to 136 kph) when it slammed into a concrete abutment in the narrow tunnel, careened into a wall and was crushed like an accordion, police said. According to witnesses, paparazzi -- the commercial photographers who constantly followed Diana -- were pursuing the car on motorcycles.

Police seized two motorcycles and a motor scooter believed used in the chase. France Info radio said at least some of the photographers took pictures before help arrived -- and that one of the photographers was beaten at the scene by horrified witnesses.

"Serious questions will need to be asked as to whether the aggressive intrusion into her privacy has contributed to this tragedy," said British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.

Mourners gather at Kensington Palace

In London, people gathered outside Diana's Kensington Palace residence before dawn. Some sat with their heads in their hands and wept. Flowers from mourners adorned the palace gate.

Kensington Palace

One man lit two candles at Kensington Palace.

"I just feel disbelief more than shock," said student Fiona von Schank, 24, who brought two roses. "It's amazing that this woman who finally seemed to have just about found some happiness has now died so tragically."

Diana and Fayed, the 42-year-old son of the billionaire Egyptian owner of London's prestigious Harrods department store, had arrived in Paris on Saturday afternoon on a private visit. They had dined at the Ritz and were headed to a villa owned by Fayed in a posh district in western Paris, France Info reported.

Fayed family spokesperson Michael Cole relates Dodi's feelings for Diana
icon 264 K/24 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Witnesses: at least 1 photographer at scene

American Mike Walker was among the first on the scene. He said the car Diana was in "looked like it hit a wall."

American tourists Tom Richardson and Joanna Luz, both of San Diego, were walking nearby and sprinted into the tunnel when they heard screeching tires and a horrific bang.

"There was smoke. I think the car hit a wall. A man started running towards us telling us to go," said Richardson.

Luz added, "The horn was sounding for about two minutes. I think it was the driver against the steering wheel."

They described the car as a dark blue Mercedes, with the passenger side airbag deployed, facing oncoming traffic. They also said at least one cameraman with professional equipment was snapping photographs less than 15 seconds after the accident.


Eyewitnesses describe the crash scene
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  • Tom Richardson
    320 K/24 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
  • Joanna Luz
    192 K/15 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
  • Mike Walker
    256 K/18 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

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

    Offering condolences via Web

    The royal family's Web site, www.royal.gov.uk, invited users to offer condolences. The site opens with a color photograph of Diana smiling and dressed elegantly with a bouquet of wildflowers. The caption is simple: "Diana, Princess of Wales 1 July 1961 - 31 August 1997."

    On a special link, users can sign in on the visitor's book and express their sympathy.

    "Thank you for your kind message of condolence for the sad loss of Diana, Princess of Wales," a message from the royal family reads.

     

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