Princess Diana's Death: The French Connection –

The six-inch thick dossier compiled by the Prefecture of Police in Paris is labeled simply "Accident Mortel de la Circulation Date 31/8/97 Heure 00h30." The file name is dry, but its contents are provocative. Nestled among sheets of police reports, carefully sketched diagrams and statements from witnesses are photographs of Diana in the wreckage of the Mercedes. Taken by a paparazzi, Diana, eyes open, appears conscious and unhurt; there is no sign of blood. Appearances aside, Diana was hurt – badly hurt. And less than four hours later, she was dead.

The world still wonders what, exactly, happened that night. With painstaking detail, the French police have put together a file that answers many of those questions. The dossier and interviews with those on the scene of the accident reveal surprising new details about the crash that on August, 31 killed Diana, her lover Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul, and seriously injured bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones.

The file begins at 12:23 a.m., in the Place de l' Alma Tunnel. It notes that paparazzi, who had been stalking Diana and Dodi since their arrival earlier that day in Paris, appeared on the scene two minutes after the collision. A minute behind them was Frederic Mailliez, an emergency doctor employed by SOS Medecins, a private firm. In an interview with "Newsweek," he described what happened next. "I held her hand and spoke to her, took her pulse, put the resuscitation mask on her, assured her that she was safe." He also called for help. Within five minutes of the accident, two ambulances arrived, each with a doctor.

It took the emergency workers a full fifty-two minutes to place Diana in the ambulance. It proceeded slowly along the Seine, led by a motorcycle escort. At the Point d' Austerlitz, a short distance from the hospital, the motorcade pulled off the road; Diana's heart had stopped beating. She was injected with a strong dose of adrenaline, and the ambulance continued on. Finally, at l:05 in the morning, 43 minutes after leaving the scene, Diana arrived at the Pitie-Salpe-triere Hospital, a 3.7-mile trip. After trying for two hours to save her, doctors at 4:05 a.m. officially pronounced Diana dead.

To many, the elapsed time from the arrival of the ambulance at the accident scene to the hospital – a total of one hour and forty-five minutes – seemed inordinately long. Diana, after all, didn't have to be cut out of the car (though both Rees-Jones and Paul did). In addition, the ambulance bypassed at least two major hospitals. To Parisians, the pace of the trip was entirely understandable. French ambulances are always staffed with a fully qualified doctor and are considered an extension of the hospital; driving slowly is standard. "It's worse to go fast," says Mailliez. "Braking and accelerating can literally kill your patient, because the blood races to head and feet alternately." And the Pitie-Salpetriere has the best-equipped emergency room in Paris.

In the end, Diana's internal injuries were so massive (most important, a severe lesion to her pulmonary vein) that even if the accident had happened in front of an emergency room, she couldn't have been saved. In lay terms, "her heart had been ripped out of its place in her chest," says Mailliez. "There was no chance for her."

No chance even for her to speak? News reports said the Fayed family had been giving a message containing Diana's final requests, but a spokesman at the Pitie-Salpetriere said that "during her hours at the hospital, Diana, Princess of Wales, was unconscious and could therefore make no statements or remarks. If Diana had any last words, Mailliez probably heard them. The paparazzi at the scene have been quoted as saying that Diana told rescue workers, "Leave me alone" and "My God." Mailliez would not tell "Newsweek" what Diana said. "I must respect the privacy of the patient." Could she have left any message to pass on to family? When you're in that kind of pain, you don't care about giving testaments to the next generation. The only thing you think of expressing is the pain."

Locating the car and its driver would help confirm the investigators' working scenario of the crash. Police believe that driver Henri Paul braked suddenly when he came upon a slow-moving car in the Alma tunnel, then sped up and tried to pass the car on the left. Tire tracks a few feet farther into the tunnel suggest that in trying to regain control of the car, Paul stepped on the gas – and lost control.

The French police, by reconstructing the accident in the Alma tunnel two weeks ago and consulting photographs taken at the scene, have solved some of the mystery. The pictures (most confiscated from the paparazzi) showed that, contrary to what was at first thought, six cars passed the wreck before traffic was stopped. During the reconstruction, everyone also noticed that the tunnel's yellowish lighting greatly distorted color.

It had been assumed that all of the photographers were some 200 meters behind the Mercedes when it entered the tunnel from the Place de la Concorde. But there is significant evidence, "Newsweek" has learned, that at least one was on a motorcycle in front of the Mercedes. Mark Butt, a friend of Dr. Mailliez's who arrived on the scene with him, said that as they approached the tunnel from the west, they saw a motorcycle with a single rider emerge from the east – traveling in the same direction as the Mercedes. Butt says it stopped, made a U-turn and drove against the direction of traffic back into the tunnel.

If Diana had died in the United States, someone could ultimately be held financially responsible for her demise. But, the Princess of Wales died in France, where massive punitive awards are neither the custom nor the law.






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