Diana 1961-1997: Death of a Princess


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    It took only minutes for the Paris police to arrive, cordoning off the area with red- and-white crime-scene tape and leaving the lights of their cruisers flashing as they rushed into the tunnel. The officers broke into two groups: one headed straight for the wrecked car, the other fanned out to nab the photographers believed to have caused the accident. There were more than seven paparazzi thought to have been involved in the high-speed pursuit, and at least five were still in the tunnel. All were quickly arrested and led out in manacles. When they emerged, the crowd that had begun to gather jeered, and one cuffed cameraman was even set upon and beaten before police could hustle him away.

    Back in the tunnel, the scene was a grim one. Almost the instant the second group of officers reached the car, it was clear that the chauffeur and Al Fayed, both sitting on the vehicle's left side, were beyond help. Diana and her bodyguard, however, both on the right, appeared to be clinging to life.

    "We knew it was somebody messed up bad," says Michael Walker, another American tourist whose taxi passed the wreckage, where he stopped to gawk and take pictures. "It was a bad accident. The car was crushed and tilted up against the wall." The taxi driver thought he saw a blond-haired woman sitting in the backseat of the car, gasping, crying.

    As the onlookers watched, the rescue team cut through the buckled roof and doors of the Mercedes, removed the two survivors and rushed them by ambulance to a public hospital, the Pitie-Salpetriere, one of the best in the city. On the way, paramedics examined the wounded princess and found her condition grave. She was suffering from extensive chest injuries, a massive wound to the left lung and numerous broken bones. Her blood pressure barely registered on the rescue team's instruments.

    When the ambulance reached the hospital, the emergency-room physicians found that Diana was alive--just barely--but that the injuries had caused extensive internal bleeding. For more than two hours they struggled to stabilize her, eventually opening her chest and applying direct massage to her heart. But the loss of blood and the system-wide trauma proved too much. At 4 a.m. Paris time, after two hours of massaging Diana's unbeating heart, doctors declared the princess dead.

    Diana's family was outraged at the circumstances surrounding her death. Her only brother Charles, the current Earl Spencer, bitterly declared, "I always believed the press would kill her in the end. Not even I could imagine that they would take such a direct hand in her death, as seems to be the case." He added, "It would appear that every proprietor and editor of every publication that has paid for intrusive and exploitative photographs of her, encouraging greedy and ruthless individuals to risk everything in pursuit of Diana's image, has blood on his hands today."

    As for Diana's former in-laws, they kept a regal silence. Members of the royal family, including Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, vacationing with his sons--her sons--William and Harry at Balmoral Castle, were notified by phone. None made any public statement.

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