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Princess Diana killed in Paris car crash

Prince Charles to accompany body to Britain

August 31, 1997
Web posted at: 11:35 a.m. EDT (1535 GMT)

PARIS (CNN) -- Britain's Princess Diana died early Sunday after suffering massive internal injuries in a high-speed car crash, reportedly after being chased by photographers who were trying to snap photographs of the princess.

Her companion and rumored lover, Dodi Fayed, and their chauffeur also died when the Mercedes crashed shortly after midnight in a tunnel along the Seine River at the Pont de l'Alma bridge, less than a half mile north of the Eiffel Tower. A fourth person in the car, a bodyguard of the princess, was also seriously injured.

The 36-year-old princess died from internal bleeding stemming from major chest, lung and head injuries, doctors said at a 6 a.m. news conference.


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

"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.

Prince Charles heads to France

Diana's body was to arrive in London around 7 p.m. (2 p.m. EDT) Sunday, French police said. Prince Charles left Scotland early Sunday afternoon for Paris. From there he will accompany the body of his former wife on its return to Britain. Charles will also visit the hospital where Diana died to thank doctors for having tried to save her life.

Prince Charles heads to France

Fayed's body was to return to Britain Sunday according to a Harrods spokesman. No further details are available.

The Prince of Wales woke their 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.

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

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

7 photographers detained

Diana's car was traveling at 80 to 85 mph (128 to 136 kph) when the car 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.

Authorities said seven photographers -- six reported to be French and one Macedonian -- were in custody, and a criminal investigation was under way. 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.

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

"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 began gathering 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.

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."

Eyewitnesses describe the crash scene
  • 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

  • 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.

    Sir Michael Jay , Britain's ambassador to France, expresses his sympathy
    icon 330 K/29 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

    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.

    "I'll always remember Diana," says a mourner outside of Kensington Palace
    icon 352K/26 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,, 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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