Diana’s final moments: A French doctor remembers a “tragic night”
PARIS, France (AP) — The woman was unconscious and struggling to breathe on the floor of a mangled Mercedes. The French doctor had no idea who she was and was only concerned with saving her.
Dr. Frederic Mailliez is still haunted by what happened in Paris’ Alma Tunnel on Aug. 31, 1997 — and the realisation that he was one of the last people to see Princess Diana alive.
“I realise my name will always be associated with this tragic night,” Mailliez, who was driving home from a party when he saw the car crash, told The Associated Press. “I feel somewhat responsible for her final moments.”
As Britain and Diana’s fans around the world commemorate the 25th anniversary of her death, Mailliez recounted the aftermath of the crash.
Mailliez was driving into the tunnel that night when he noticed a smoking Mercedes nearly split in half.
“I took a step toward the wreckage. “I opened the door and peered inside,” he explained.
What he saw: “Four people, two of whom appeared to be dead, with no reaction or breathing, and the other two, on the right side, who were alive but in critical condition.” The front passenger was screaming and breathing heavily. He had a few minutes to kill. And the young lady, the female passenger, was on her knees on the floor of the Mercedes, her head down. She was having trouble breathing. She required immediate assistance.”
He dashed to his car to call 911 and grab a respiratory bag.
“She was out,” he explained. “She regained a little more energy thanks to my respiratory bag (…) but she couldn’t say anything.”
The doctor, like the rest of the world, would later learn that the woman he was treating was Diana, Britain’s national treasure adored by millions.
“I know it’s surprising,” he admitted, “but I didn’t recognise Princess Diana.” “I was in the back seat of the car, assisting.” I noticed she was very beautiful, but I was so focused on what I needed to do to save her life that I didn’t have time to wonder who she was.”
“Someone behind me said the victims spoke English, so I started speaking English, saying I was a doctor, and I called the ambulance,” he explained. “I attempted to console her.”
As he worked, he noticed the flash of camera bulbs from the paparazzi who had gathered to photograph the scene. A British inquest found Diana’s chauffeur, Henri Paul, was drunk and driving at a high speed to elude pursuing photographers.
Mailliez stated that he had “no reproach” for the photographers’ actions following the crash. “They did not obstruct my access to the victims.” I didn’t ask for their assistance, but they didn’t interfere with my work.”
Firefighters arrived quickly, and Diana was taken to a hospital in Paris, where she died a few hours later. Dodi Fayed, her companion, and the driver were also killed.
“It was a huge shock to discover she was Princess Diana and that she had died,” Mailliez said. Then came the self-doubt. “Did I try everything to save her? “Did I do my job correctly?” he questioned himself. “I checked with my medical professors and police investigators,” he said, and they all agreed he did everything he could.
The anniversary brings back memories, but they also come back “every time I drive through the Alma Tunnel,” he says.
Cars rushed in and out of the tunnel as Mailliez spoke, passing the pillar where Diana had crashed, which now bore a stencil drawing of Diana’s face.
The nearby Flame of Liberty monument has become a memorial, attracting Diana fans of all ages and nationalities. Even for those born after her death, she has become a timeless figure of emancipation and a fashion icon.
Irinia Ouahvi, a 16-year-old Parisian who came to see the flame, said she knows Diana from TikTok videos and her mother.
“Even with her fashion sense, she was a feminist.” “She defied royal protocol by wearing cyclist shorts and casual pants,” Ouahvi said.
Francine Rose, a Dutch 16-year-old who stopped by Diana’s memorial while biking through Paris, learned about her story thanks to the recent film “Spencer,” starring Kristen Stewart.
“She is an inspiration because she was growing up in a strict household, the royal family, and all she wanted to do was be free,” Rose said.
The title of the film starring Kristen Stewart has been changed to “Spencer.”
This report was contributed to by Nicolas Garriga and Jeffrey Schaeffer.