A Rare Insight into the Chaotic Night as Doctors Battled

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August 31, 1997, is a day when the world reeled in horror Photo (C) GETTY
August 31, 1997, is a day when the world reeled in horror Photo (C) GETTY

Revealed: What France said of Diana’s death – the official hand-annotated letter in Full

A Letter written by the French interior minister the night Diana died reveals a rare insight into the chaotic night as doctors battled to save the beloved princess.

The 36-year-old royal died on August 31, 1997, after the car she was travelling in crashed into the 13th pillar in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel.

 In the letter, Mr Chevenement voices his initial thoughts on the cause of the crash Photo (C) GETTY
In the letter, Mr Chevenement voices his initial thoughts on the cause of the crash Photo (C) GETTY

In the hours after the tragic news spread around the world, her ex-husband Prince Charles flew to Paris, France, to bring her body home.

The news was broken to the people of France by the interior minister, Jean-Pierre Chevenement, who rushed to Pitie-Salpetriere hospital where she was taken.

He and the Prefect of Police, Philippe Massoni, accompanied the British Ambassador in Paris to the hospital where her body lay.

Princess Diana’s time of death is recorded at 4am British time, and Buckingham Palace officials confirmed the news at 5.25am.

Prince Charles informed his two children that their mother has died, and with his ex-wife’s two sisters, Lady Jane and Lady Sarah, the trio travelled to Paris.

Upon arrival at the hospital they were greeted by French President Jacques Chirac and his wife Bernadette.

Princess Diana's time of death is recorded at 4am British time Photo (C) GETTY, FCO
Princess Diana’s time of death is recorded at 4am British time Photo (C) GETTY, FCO

A letter written by Mr Chevenement the night she died was recently released by the British Government.

As the world came to terms with her death, he wrote of “deep emotion and great sorrow” over the loss of the princess.

He hailed the best efforts of doctors’ Rioux and Pavie, who battled to save her life, which included an open heart massage for two hours.

Professor Alain Pavie was the president of the French college of cardiovascular surgeons and later said he had never seen anyone survive such internal injuries which Diana suffered.

Mr Chevenement said in the letter: “Lady Diana was loved in France, a modern and courageous woman, sensitive to human distress. Her disappearance will be felt painfully in our country.”

A long-awaited inquest held in 2008 found that none of the occupants had been wearing seatbelts, which may have given them a better chance of survival.

In the letter, Mr Chevenement voices his initial thoughts on the cause of the crash.

In full, it reads: “Paris, 31 August 1997,

August 31, 1997, is a day when the world reeled in horror Photo (C) GETTY
August 31, 1997, is a day when the world reeled in horror Photo (C) GETTY

“Statement by Mr Jean-Pierre Chevenement, Minister of the Interior, in the presence of His Excellency the Ambassador of Great Britain, the Police Prefect Philippe Massoni and the medical team responsible for the operation.

“I would first like to express the deep emotion and great sorrow of the Government and people of France after the tragic death of the Princess of Wales, Mr. Dodi AL FAYAD and the driver of the car. I address the condolences of France to the Royal family, the parents of the victims and the British people as a whole.

“The Princess of Wales and Mr. AL FAYAD seem to have arrived in Paris Saturday afternoon for a private visit.

Lady Diana was loved in France
Jean-Pierre Chevenement

“This Sunday, 31 August, just before one in the morning, inside the Alma tunnel, the car with four people, including the Princess of Wales and Mr. Dodi AL FAYAD, suffered an accident. Mr. AL FAYAD and the driver died on the spot despite medical care.

“According to the first information gathered, the vehicle was being followed by photographers trying to take pictures. It seems that the driver lost control of his vehicle, which he was driving at high speed.

“The Princess of Wales died in the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital despite the efforts of the teams of doctors RIOUX and PAVIE.

Kath Garner who suffered her own private grief in 1997 Photo (C) GETTY
Kath Garner who suffered her own private grief in 1997 Photo (C) GETTY

“Lady DIANA was loved in France, a modern and courageous woman, sensitive to human distress. Her disappearance will be felt painfully in our country.

“The criminal brigade of the Police Prefecture is responsible for the investigation. Several witnesses are presently being heard.”

Diana, along with her lover Dodi Al-Fayed and driver Henri Paul, died, while bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones was the sole survivor of the horrific crash.

The Mercedes was being driven by Mr Paul, deputy head of the security at the Ritz Paris where Diana and Dodi had dined that evening.

He was taking the pair to Dodi’s flat near the Champs-Elysees.

The car sped through the tunnel at a reported 120mph, before it hit a pillar causing catastrophic damage.

Mr Paul is said to have been speeding in an attempt to outrun a pack of paparazzi who were chasing them, and a toxicology report later indicated he was three times the drink-drive limit.

The crash happened around 1.25am.

The princess was alive after the horrific impact and was rushed to the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital where staff battled in vain to save her life.

Source: EXPRESS CO UK

Tags: Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince William and Prince Harry, William and Harry, Ritz Paris, Diana and Dodi, Tunnel at a reported 120mph, pillar, Catastrophic Damage, Police Perfecture, Criminal Brigade

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