UPI Focus: Princess Diana, 2 others dead in crash

PARIS, Aug. 31 -- Diana, Princess of Wales and her companion Dodi al-Fayed and their driver have died in a high-speed car crash and police are investigating whether attempts by paparazzi to photograph the couple may have led to the crash.

French Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement announced the death in a statement outside the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital.


The 36-year-old princess died at 4 a.m. Paris time, about 3 1/2 hours after the accident.

A physician said the cause of death was a lung hemorrhage caused by a severe wound to the left pulmonary vein. Doctors said the princess had suffered massive lung injuries as well as head injuries during the accident and went into cardiac arrest while being treated.

Doctors battled for two hours to try to save her, first attempting external heart massage before opening her chest and massaging her heart with their hands.

Buckingham Palace said the Queen and the Prince of Wales are 'deeply shocked and distressed by this terrible news.' Prince Charles had been vacationing in Scotland with his sons, 15- year-old Prince William and 12-year-old Prince Harry. The boys were informed of their mother's death.

U.S. President Bill Clinton and his wife, vacationing at Martha's Vineyard, Mass., was quick to pay tribute to the princess after learning of her death.


In a statement, Clinton said, 'Hillary and I knew Princess Diana and we were very fond of her. We are profoundly saddened by this tragic event.' The accident happened at 12:35 a.m. local time in a highway tunnel along the Seine River at the Pont de l'Alma bridge, near the Eiffel Tower.

Police said the crash happened as paparazzi -- the commercial photographers who constantly tail Diana -- followed her Mercedes sedan, which went out of control and crashed head-on into a tunnel support at high speed. The vehicle reportedly rolled over several times.

One report said the crash was so violent that the car's radiator ended up in the lap of the front-seat passenger, Diana's bodyguard. The only survivor, he was hospitalized in what was reported as grave condition.

The princess was taken from the mangled wreckage to the hospital. The 42-year-old al-Fayed and the chauffeur were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

Local press reports said the photographers' chase began when the couple were leaving the Ritz Hotel after having had dinner.

Paris police are conducting a criminal investigation into whether paparazzi pursuing the celebrities may have contributed to the cause of the accident. Seven French photographers were detained by police for questioning and at least one of their machines was impounded and taken away.


There were reports one media member was beaten by bystanders at the scene after the crash.

Al-Fayed's father is Mohamed al-Fayed, a billionaire who owns London's Harrods department store and the Ritz Hotel in Paris.

--- Copyright 1997 by United Press International. All rights reserved. ---

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