Police seek 40,000 Fiat Unos in Diana crash probe
November 4, 1997
Web posted at: 12:28 p.m. EST (1728 GMT)
PARIS (CNN) -- French police launched a search for the owners of 40,000 Fiat Unos registered throughout France Tuesday, hoping to turn up clues in the crash that killed Princess Diana.
Investigators believe that Diana's Mercedes may have hit another car, picking up traces of white paint and swerving out of control.
The Mercedes was crushed when it hit a tunnel support under the capital's Pont de l'Alma bridge on August 31. Diana, her companion Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul died in the crash.
A police lab has determined that the white paint chips found on the Mercedes may have come from a Fiat Uno. The vehicles under study correspond to the model the Italian carmaker produced between 1983 and 1987, police sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Police spent weeks combing through records of about 112,000 Fiat Unos before they narrowed the number of vehicles they wish to investigate.
It will take at least several weeks to question the owners of the cars, and even then police are not sure that they will come up with the right car. The paint sample also matched three other types of Fiat cars, and six other kinds of cars whose make was not specified, police sources said.
The official inquiry into the crash has followed many leads, including statements from witnesses that a mystery car may have swerved in front of Diana's, causing Paul to crash into a tunnel pillar.
But despite the possible involvement of a second car, investigators are leaning toward the hypothesis that high-speed driving and the alcohol level in Paul's blood were the primary causes of the accident.
Tests showed Paul was drunk at the time of the crash and had taken prescription drugs. Investigators say the car may have been traveling at nearly 120 mph (190 kmh) before it hit the pillar.
A bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was the only passenger in the Mercedes to survive the crash. He has been unable to help investigators reconstruct the sequence of events leading up to the crash, because he says he remembers nothing of the ride after getting into the car at the Ritz Hotel.
Reuters contributed to this report.