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The mysteries of Princess Grace's death

By
ROBERT MUSEL, UPI Senior Editor

MONTE CARLO, Monaco -- The royal palace's handling of the car accident that killed Princess Grace and injured her daughter has raised more questions than it has answered.

In towns along the France's Mediterranean coast, newspapers and local residents are asking these questions:

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-- Why was the serious nature of Grace's injuries not disclosed?

-- Who was driving the car?

-- Was there really a mechanical problem?

-- Why hasn't the palace allowed experts to examine the car?

The handling of the case first came into question Tuesday with word Prince Grace had died of cerebral and vascular hemorrhaging. Just hours earlier, a palace spokesman said she had suffered only a broken thighbone, rib and collarbone. She had never lost conciousness, the palace said.

French press reports have also asked why the wrecked remains of the British-made Rover 3,500 were hurriedly swept up by palace officials and rushed back to Monaco from the crash site at La Turbie, a mountainous region on the principality's northern border.

Palace officials made no comment on the press reports but a police source said the investigation had been hampered by the speedy removal of the wrecked vehicle.

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The palace report that Princess Grace was driving and that the brakes failed also has been called into question. Newspapers have speculated that it was Stephanie, not Princess Grace, who was behind the wheel.

At 17, Stephanie is too young to have a license.

Reports that Stephanie was pulled out of the left side of the car, from behind the steering wheel, bolstered press speculation she had been driving but police denied the report.

'We pulled Stephanie out the left door because it was the only way we could get her out. All the other doors were locked. The car was completely smashed,' said French police investigator Capt. Bencze.

French police also said Wednesday they could find no tire tracks on the steep, winding road, where the car hurtled into a flower garden, apparently bearing out the official palace version of a brake failure.

But British Leyland, manufacturer of the Rover 3500, said the car is fitted with a dual brake system that is literally 'fail safe.'

Two British Leyland engineers, in Monte Carlo since Tuesday afternoon, have asked for permission to examine the car but on Wednesday had not received an answer.

'I expect only experts could determine if the brakes were at fault. It's up to Monaco to determine if experts can look at the car,' Bencze said. 'After all, the crash involved members of the royal family.'

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A French chauffeur, Thomas Domingo, took a UPI correspondent along the accident route.

'Whoever was driving lost control of the car and Madam (Princess Grace) was a very good driver,' Domingo said.

Domingo noted there was no stretch of the road where a car could build up speed because of the frequent hairpin turns. Asked if he thought Stephanie could have been driving, the chauffeur shrugged his shoulders and replied: 'It was not Grace.'

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