On August 31, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed met their untimely death from a fatal car crash in Paris, France.
Henri Paul, the Acting Head of Security at the Paris Ritz Hotel, was told to drive a rented black Mercedes Benz S280 with passengers Princess Diana, Dodi Fayed, and Fayed’s bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones. His goal was to avoid paparazzi while driving them back to London. A decoy car was sent from the front of the hotel, and Henri Paul left from the back of the hotel.
The plan did not work. Many paparazzi followed in pursuit of the princess’ Mercedes Benz W140. At first, it was believed that the paparazzi distracted the driver causing the accident.
The car was travelling through the Point de l’Alma underpass in Paris at a very high speed before it hit a pillar 13 and slammed into a wall. The many witnesses at the scene, including the paparazzi in pursuit, estimated the car was travelling between 60 – 90 mph.
After eighteen months of investigation it was decided the crash was caused by the driver, Henri Paul, who lost control of the car while inebriated. His control of the car may have been made worse by the presence of an anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medication in his system. It was also determined that the victims were negligent since they were not wearing seatbelts.
Princess Diana was rushed to the hospital but at 0300 BST she was pronounced dead. Dodi Fayed, son of Harrods owner Mohammed Al Fayed, was pronounced dead at the scene, as was driver Henri Paul. Dodi Fayed's bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones was in the front passenger seat of the car and the sole survivor.
Buckingham Palace released a statement from the Queen and the Prince of Wales saying they were “deeply shocked and distressed”. The royal family was criticized for their lack of showing sympathy during this emotional time.
Prince Charles broke the news to their two boys, Prince William and Prince Harry. Tributes to the princess poured in from all over the work. Hundreds of mourners gathered at the princess’ London home and many laid flowers at the gates.