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Remembering Diana: Firefighter recalls her last words

Flowers and tributes are left in memory of the late Princess Diana, at the gates of her former residence in Kensington Palace on the twentieth anniversary of her death, in London, Britain August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Remembering Diana: Firefighter recalls her last words

Remembering Diana: Firefighter recalls her last words

‘My God, what’s happened?’ Princess Diana asked rescuer after Paris car crash.

Princess Diana died 21 years ago in a Paris hospital in Paris after sustaining injuries from a car crash in a tunnel in the French capital. Firefighter Xavier Gourmelon, one of the first to get to the scene, has revealed the princess’ final words after keeping his secret for two decades. The firefighter said that when he arrived at the Pont de l’Alma tunnel, he did not know who he was treating.

With the Ritz Hotel’s acting head of security Henri Paul driving – despite him drinking during the evening – Diana and boyfriend Dodi Fayed left the hotel just after midnight on August 31, 1997. Dodi’s bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, the sole survivor of the crash, sat in the passenger seat of the car. While being chased by photographers heading towards the Pont de l’Alma, Paul clipped a white Fiat Uno and lost control.

The car hit a pillar at almost 200km/h. Fayed and Paul died at the scene; Diana was driven to Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital where she suffered cardiac arrest after her pulmonary vein was found to be torn. Gourmelon said he kept his experience a secret, except when he gave evidence at Diana’s inquest in 2007, because French fire departments are not permitted to speak with the media.

Diana, Princess of Wales – Reuters

When he got to the scene, he spoke to Diana, who responded: “My God, what’s happened?” Gourmelon added: “The car was in a mess and we just dealt with it like any road accident. It was the usual causes, speed and a drunk driver.

“We were very close and it took less than three minutes to reach it,” Gourmelon said. The princess did not seem affected. “The woman, who I later found out was Princess Diana, was on the floor in the back.

“She was moving very slightly and I could see she was alive. I could see she had a slight injury to her right shoulder but, other than that, there was nothing significant. There was no blood on her at all.” Gourmelon told her to be calm and keep still.

“I gave her some oxygen and my team and I stayed by her side as she was taken out of the car. It was very quick because we didn’t have to cut any of the wreckage,” the firefighter said.

Gourmelon believed she would survive, but when she was placed on a stretcher, Diana suffered a cardiac arrest and stopped breathing. However, after he performed CPR on her, she started breathing again.

“To be honest I thought she would live. As far as I knew when she was in the ambulance she was alive and I expected her to live. But I found out later she had died in hospital. It was very upsetting. I know now that there were serious internal injuries, but the whole episode is still very much in my mind.”

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