The events of August 31, 1997, will remain etched in the minds of everyone who grieved the loss of the beloved English princess.
Diana, Princess of Wales, succumbed to injuries sustained in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris in an attempt by the driver to escape the paparazzi. The tragedy robbed the life of the driver, named Henri Paul, along with Diana’s companion Dodi Fayed.
A fire chief named Sgt. Xavier Gourmelon, who was one of the first to help Princess Diana after her fatal road crash in Paris, revealed to the Daily Mail that the princess was “moving and talking” moments after the accident. Speaking for the first time about that horrible night, he revealed that Diana turned to him and asked,
“Oh my God, what’s happened?”
The fire chief had given statements to police but has never before spoken to the press. Gourmelon said,
“I tried to calm her. I held her hand.”
The impact of the crash into an underpass — estimated to have been at around 65 mph — had already instantly killed Paul and Fayed.
At the time, Gourmelon did not even realise that he was helping a royal member of the family. Only after he helped load Lady Di into an ambulance did he find out who she was from a captain at the scene.
“He tells me who she is and then, yes, I recognize her, but in [sic] the moment I didn’t,” he told the outlet.
Frederic Mailliez, an off-duty doctor who stumbled across the crash scene while driving home from a party, said he saw “two [victims] were already apparently dead” and two others — including Diana’s bodyguard — “were severely injured but still alive.”
“I discovered then she was a most beautiful woman and she didn’t have any [serious] injuries to her face. She was not bleeding [then] but she was almost unconscious and was having difficulty breathing. She looked fine for the first minutes.”
He went on:
“So I began to speak English to her, saying that I was a doctor and that the ambulance was on its way and everything is going to be all right,” he revealed before leaving as soon as emergency workers took over. “And so I left the scene without knowing who I had been treating.”
News that it was actually Diana was so shocking, however, that the hospital’s duty chaplain, Father Yves-Marie Clochard-Bossuet, repeatedly hung up the phone when asked to attend, assuming it was a prank. He finally rushed over, however, recalling seeing her after she was covered by a sheet, having been pronounced dead.
“She was completely intact, no mark or stain, or makeup. Completely natural. And she was a really beautiful woman and it seemed as if … you could almost talk to her,” he said.
Amidst the chaos, his mind flashed to Diana’s two young sons, Princes Harry and William.
“They are going to have to wake them up and tell them, ‘It’s over’ … It is the worst thing,” he recalled.
*Cover image via Lightbox and Altitude