It has been 26 years since the tragic car crash in Paris claimed the life of Princess Diana that would forever change the course of history. In spite of that, her story continues to captivate not just for the people of Britain, but for admirers of the Royal Family worldwide.
In commemoration of her untimely passing, countless documentaries, books, extensive media coverage and even new soap operas exploring Diana's life and untimely demise have been released by several broadcasters, authors and filmmakers alike.
When the news of the princess's untimely demise spread, it sent shockwaves across the globe. And while you’ve probably heard a thing or two about her death, it's almost been 26 years now and the details may have faded from your memory a bit.
Let's revisit some essential details surrounding Princess Diana car crash.
Who was Princess Diana?
Princess Diana, born Diana Frances Spencer on July 1, 1961 in Norfolk, was a beloved member of the British royal family. She stood not only as the first wife of the Prince of Wales, Charles but also as the beloved mother of Prince William and Prince Harry. Princess Diana became a global icon due to her activism and glamour and she uses her platform to champion various charitable causes, securing her a place in the hearts of countless admirers.
Diana wasn’t a royal by birth, she was born into a family of British nobility. Her father, Edward John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, held a position in the House of Lords, while her mother, Frances Shand Kydd, was a socialite and the daughter of a Baron. Diana spent her childhood days on the Sandringham Estate, a property owned by the British royal family.
Her life took a dramatic turn when she crossed paths with Prince Charles, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, at the young age of 16. Their fairy tale wedding in 1981 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London captured the attention of the world, with nearly a billion people around the world tuning in to witness the grand event.
While her marriage with Prince Charles faced difficulties and eventually ended in divorce in August 1996, Diana remained a popular figure. She devoted herself to various charitable causes, using her influence to raise awareness about issues like landmine clearance campaigns and HIV/AIDS.
After her divorce, Diana began a new chapter in her life and found love with Dodi Fayed, the son of Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed. The couple enjoyed a summer romance, spending time together in France.
Tragically, on August 31, 1997, Diana's life was cut short in a car crash in Paris, France, alongside Dodi and their driver. Her untimely death sent shockwaves around the world, and millions mourned the loss of one of the most beloved members of the royal family.
How Did Princess Diana Died? Details of The Ghastly Princess Diana Car Crash
On the evening of Saturday, August 30, 1997, Princess Diana enjoyed her final hours in Paris alongside her then-boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, a 42-year-old film producer and the son of billionaire Mohamed Al Fayed, who owned Harrod's. The duo had arrived in Paris after spending more than a week sailing together in the Mediterranean.
The couple indulged in a romantic dinner at the exclusive private salon of the Ritz Hotel in Paris. Interestingly, the hotel they visited was owned by Fayed's father, Mohammed Al-Fayed, who also held proprietorship over the renowned Harrods department store in London at that time.
As the clock ticked past midnight on Sunday, Diana and Dodi left the hotel and entered a waiting Mercedes-Benz, presumably headed for Fayed's private estate in Paris. Behind the wheel was Henri Paul, the deputy head of security at the Ritz, and accompanying them was their loyal bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones.
Shortly after approaching the entrance of a road tunnel at Paris’s Pont de l’Alma, the car was travelling at a speed of around 70 mph, far exceeding the posted speed limit of 30 mph. In a desperate attempt to avoid colliding with a white Fiat Uno in the right-hand lane, Paul lost control of the vehicle and crashed into the tunnel's 13th concrete pillar.
The collision proved catastrophic, claiming the lives of both Henri Paul and Dodi Fayed instantly, as reported by NBC. Trevor Rees-Jones miraculously survived the crash, as did Princess Diana, although briefly, despite several efforts to save her life.
What Caused the Deadly Car Crash?
The tragic death of Princess Diana sent shockwaves around the world, leaving everyone asking one question: what could have caused Henri Paul, who is a licensed driver and the acting head of security at the Ritz hotel to lose control of the car drastically? The events leading up to that fateful night were a culmination of various factors and circumstances.
According to several eyewitness report, It is believed that the high-speed pursuit by paparazzi, who relentlessly pursued Princess Diana’s vehicle in order to get the perfect shot of Princess Diana, might have placed immense pressure on both the driver and Princess Diana herself, ultimately leading to the car crash. However, the extent to which this influenced the driver's actions remains uncertain.
Another factor that might have caused the car crash was the presence of alcohol in Henri Paul's system, who was driving Princess Diana, her companion Dodi Fayed and bodyguard at the time. The French authorities, in a statement made the Monday following the crash, revealed that blood analysis showed Paul had exceeded the legal blood-alcohol limit. This impairment likely compromised his judgement and reaction time, making him more prone to errors while behind the wheel.
Also, reports from CNN revealed that none of the occupants, including Princess Diana, Dodi Fayed, and Henri Paul, had their seatbelts fastened at the time of the accident. The question of whether bodyguard Rees-Jones was wearing a seatbelt remains unanswered, as he claimed he had no memory of the crash during an interview on "60 Minutes” in 2000.
Some theories suggest there may have been mechanical issues with Princess Diana's vehicle itself. However, investigations concluded that no major mechanical failures contributed directly to this tragedy.
How Old Was Princess Diana When She Died?
At the time of her passing on August 31, 1997, Princess Diana was just 36 years old. Her passing left a void felt deeply by many, including her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry who were both 15 and 12 years old respectively as at that time. As one of the most beloved members of British royalty, her youthfulness and vibrant spirit endeared her to people around the globe.
What Injury Did Princess Diana Sustain After the Car Crash?
Princess Diana suffered multiple severe injuries in the car crash, some more serious than others, which ultimately led to her tragic end.
She sustained a ruptured pulmonary vein on the left side of her chest, resulting in internal bleeding and cardiac arrest. According to The Independent, this injury alone made her heart stop beating, and despite undergoing surgery, her heart couldn't be revived.
Princess Diana also suffered from a broken arm and numerous cuts and bruises across her body. She experienced serious trauma to her lungs, making it difficult for her to breathe properly. In addition to these physical injuries, she also endured immense psychological trauma due to the horrifying incident.
Despite receiving prompt medical care at the scene of the accident and later at the hospital, Princess Diana's injuries were too severe for doctors to save her life. Tragically, she passed away in the early hours of August 31st, 1997.
What Were Princess Diana’s Last Words Before She Died?
In an interview with The Sun back in 2017, Xavier Gourmelon, a French firefighter who was the first to arrive at the scene with his crew, shared a gripping account of the Princess Diana car crash. He vividly recounted the initial confusion surrounding the victim's identity, emphasizing that they had no clue who was inside the car at first when they arrived.
As they worked to extract Diana from the wreckage, Gourmelon recalled her uttering these haunting words, "My God, what’s happened" reflecting the shock and pain she experienced. Once successfully removed from the car, Diana was placed on a stretcher, and it was at that critical moment the attending doctor diagnosed her with cardiac arrest.
Immediately, they commenced cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), desperately attempting to revive her fading life. After a tense 20 seconds that must have felt like an eternity, Diana regained consciousness, and she was carefully transferred to an ambulance en route to the hospital.