Corrected and Updated: Shortly after midnight on August 31, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales—affectionately known as “the People’s Princess”—dies in a car crash in Paris. She was 36. Her boyfriend, the Egyptian-born socialite Dodi Fayed, and the driver of the car, Henri Paul, died as well.
The History Channel writes “Diana and Dodi—who had been vacationing in the French Riviera—arrived in Paris earlier the previous day. They left the Ritz Paris just after midnight, intending to go to Dodi’s apartment on the Rue Arsène Houssaye. As soon as they departed the hotel, a swarm of paparazzi on motorcycles began tailing their car. About three minutes later, the driver lost control and crashed into a pillar at the entrance of the Pont de l’Alma tunnel.
Dodi and the driver were pronounced dead at the scene. Diana was taken to the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital and declared dead at 6:00 am. (A fourth passenger, Diana’s bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, was seriously injured but survived.”
After her death, then-prime minister Tony Blair described her the “people’s Princess”, praising Her for “the depth of her compassion and her humanity”.
The BBC, on the day reported the news as follows: “Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in a car crash in central Paris along with her close friend Dodi Fayed.
Early on Sunday morning the 36-year-old Princess and Mr Fayed were in a Mercedes car which went out of control at high speed as it entered an underground tunnel in the French capital. The 41-year-old Mr Fayed, son of Harrods owner Mohammed Al Fayed, and the car’s driver died instantly.
The Princess was taken from the wreckage and rushed to the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in south-east Paris. First medical reports indicated that she was suffering from concussion, a broken arm and cuts to her thighs. It later emerged that the Princess had suffered massive chest injuries.
At 4.53am it was announced that the Princess had died.
The official news that Diana had died was announced outside the hospital by French Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook confirmed her death in a statement on the tarmac at Manila military airport in the Philippines. French police at the scene of the accident
“I am greatly shocked by this news. Our first thoughts must be with her children and family at this time of immense loss to them,” he said. The 36-year-old princess died at 4 a.m. local time (0200 GMT) after going into cardiac arrest, doctors told a hospital news conference.
On Monday afternoon the French authorities announced that the driver of the Mercedes had well over the legal level of alcohol in his blood.”
The BBC site also presents the following context
• Only Princess Diana’s bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, survived the crash.
• Blood tests showed the driver, Henri Paul, had taken both drugs and a large amount of alcohol before the accident.
• The royal family was criticised for its reserve during a time when there was an unprecedented national outpouring of grief.
• Around one million people lined the streets to see the princess’ funeral cortege as it made its way to Westminster Abbey in early September.
• No charges were brought against the paparazzi who had been pursuing the princess’ car.
• But the behaviour of the press came under close scrutiny and the code governing the British media was tightened in December 1997.
• An inquest into the princess’s death was opened in the UK in 2004. It has been adjourned while the Metropolitan police, led by Lord Stevens, carry out an investigation into the crash. Retired judge Lady Elizabeth Butler-Sloss will conduct preliminary hearings into the inquests in early 2007.
Via The History Channel / BBC