Were alcohol, speed to blame?
September 1, 1997
Web posted at: 10:24 p.m. EDT (0224 GMT)
PARIS (CNN) -- Disclosures on Monday that speed and alcohol
contributed to the crash that killed Princess Diana took some
of the heat off seven free-lance photographers, or paparazzi,
who have been blamed for following the car.
French police expanded their investigation after learning
the driver was legally drunk.
Sunday's accident also killed driver Henri Paul and Diana's
companion Dodi Fayed. A bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, remained in grave condition, and had not yet spoken to
Lawyers for the photographers were buoyed by the latest
developments and denounced what they said has been a
witchhunt, saying their clients have been turned into
"What is the responsibility of photographers in a crash in
which the driver was drunk? ... This changes everything,"
attorney Gilbert Collard said.
But Bernard Dartevelle, a lawyer for Dodi Fayed's father,
Mohamed Al Fayed, said the photographers were still
responsible because they had hounded Fayed and Diana on
their French vacation. That led to last-minute security
changes after the couple dined at the Ritz Hotel that night,
and the choice of Paul as a substitute driver.
Police on Monday extended the detention of the photographers,
who were taken into custody at the scene, after reports that
they may have been chasing the car. They also were accused of
snapping photos of the victims after the crash and of
blocking some rescue efforts.
Prosecutors were weighing possible charges ranging from
manslaughter to failing to assist people in danger, a crime
under French law.
Police were examining about 20 rolls of film they seized from
the photographers, and on Sunday they searched the offices
of news agencies where the photographers work -- Sygma, Sipa,
Stills, Gamma and Angeli -- to look for photos taken before
or after the crash.
The Le Monde newspaper reported Monday that Paul was trying
to drive around a slower-moving vehicle in front of it when
the Mercedes crashed, but there was no confirmation of this
Dartevelle also said a witness had seen a motorcycle zigzag
in front of the Mercedes before the crash.
The attorney said Paul, a security officer at the Ritz, owned
by Al Fayed, was recalled from home to drive the car while
Diana's regular driver drove in another direction in an
attempt to lure the photographers away.
Driver was legally drunk
A spokesman at the Ritz described Paul as an experienced
driver who had received special security training from
Mercedes-Benz at a center in Germany. She said he had
experience handling armored vehicles.
A judicial source, who asked not to be identified, said Paul
had a blood-alcohol level of 1.75 grams per liter of blood --
well over France's legal limit of 0.5 grams and the
equivalent of a blood-alcohol reading of .175 percent in the
According to France's National Association for the Prevention
of Alcoholism, Paul's alcohol level was the equivalent of
drinking nine shots of whiskey in rapid succession, or nearly
Doctor said he aided Diana at the scene
Dr. Frederic Maillez, who happened to drive by shortly after
the accident, said he found Diana in the wreckage moaning and
gesturing in every direction. He said he adjusted her
position so she could breathe. Rescuers said it was 40
minutes before they realized the woman in the car was the
According to Le Monde, some photographers were taking
pictures of the victims within 30 seconds after the crash.
Citing at least a dozen unnamed witnesses, the newspaper said
some of them pushed away rescuers and two policemen who
arrived on the scene, saying they were ruining their
But Maillez said on French TV that he was not hampered in
his efforts by photographers. He said they moved aside when
he said he was a doctor.
Correspondent Walter Rodgers, The Associated Press and
Reuters contributed to this report.
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