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Doctor recounts the last moments of Princess Diana

Médico relata los últimos momentos de la princesa Diana

The woman was doubled over on the floor of a wrecked Mercedes, unconscious and gasping for breath. The French doctor did not know who she was, he was only focused on trying to save her.

Twenty-five years later, physician Frederic Mailliez is still scarred by what happened in the Alma Tunnel in Paris on August 31, 1997 — and the idea that he was one of the last people to see Princess Diana alive.

“I realize that my name will always be associated with this tragic night,” Mailliez, who was on his way home from a party when he ran into the crash, told The Associated Press. “I feel a little bit responsible for his last moments.”

Britain and Diana’s fans around the world are commemorating a quarter century since her passing. Mailliez recalled the moments after the crash.

That night Mailliez was driving in the tunnel when he saw a smoking Mercedes that had almost been torn in two.

“I walked over to the rubble, opened the door and looked inside,” he said.

What he saw: “Four people, two of them apparently dead, there was no reaction, they were not breathing, and the other two, on the right side, were alive, but in serious condition. The passenger in the front seat was screaming, he was breathing. He could wait a few minutes. The female passenger, a young woman, was on her knees on the floor of the Mercedes, she had her head down. She was having a hard time breathing. She needed assistance fast.”

He ran to his car to call emergency services and grab a bag to help him breathe.

“She was unconscious,” he said. “Thanks to my breathing bag (…) she recovered a little energy, but she couldn’t say anything.”

The doctor later learned on the news, along with the rest of the world, that the woman he treated was Diana, a national treasure of Great Britain adored by millions.

“I know it’s amazing, but I didn’t recognize Princess Diana,” he said. “She was in the car in the back seat giving assistance. I realized that she was very beautiful, but my attention was so focused on what I had to do to save her life that I had no time to think about who this woman was.”

“Someone behind me told me that the victims spoke English, so I started speaking in English, saying I was a doctor and I called the ambulance,” he said. “I tried to comfort her.”

While working, he noticed camera flashes from paparazzi gathered to document the scene. An investigation from Britain concluded that Diana’s driver, Henri Paul, was drunk and speeding to avoid photographers.

Mailliez said he has “no blame” for the actions of the photographers after the crash. “They didn’t affect my access to the victims … I didn’t ask them for help, but they didn’t interfere with my work either.”

Firefighters arrived quickly and Diana was taken to a Paris hospital, where she died a few hours later. Her romantic partner, Dodi Fayed, and the driver also died.

“It was a huge shock to learn that she was Princess Diana, and that she had died,” Mailliez said. Then doubts arose. “Did I do my best to save her? Did I do my job well?” she wondered. “I checked with my medical professors and I checked with police investigators,” she said, and they agreed that she did everything that was within her power.

The anniversary has sparked those memories again, but they also come back on their own “every time I drive through the Alma Tunnel,” he said.

As Mailliez spoke, standing in the tunnel, cars sped past the pillar where the princess crashed, which now has a drawing of Diana’s face.

The Liberty Flame Monument, which stands near the tunnel, has become an unofficial memorial site that attracts Diana fans of all generations and nationalities. Diana in turn has become a perennial figure of emancipation and a fashion icon for those born after her death.

Irinia Ouahvi, a 16-year-old Parisian visiting the flame, said she knows Diana from TikTok videos and her mother.

“Even with her style she was a feminist. She defied royal etiquette, wearing biker shorts and casual pants,” said Ouahvi.

Francine Rose, a 16-year-old Dutch girl who passed Diana’s memorial during a cycling trip through Paris, discovered the story of the princess thanks to “Spencer”, Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín’s evocative 2021 film, starring Kristen Stewart.

Diana “is an inspiration because she was growing up in a strict house, the royal family, and she just wanted to be free,” Rose said.

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