Charles escorts Diana's body back to Britain World watches in disbelief as coffin arrives

Funeral details due today

Public fury grows over circumstances of princess' death

September 01, 1997|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON -- Prince Charles brought Princess Diana back to Britain yesterday to a stunned nation that watched in near disbelief as her coffin, draped with the Royal Standard, was slow-marched by a military honor guard to a waiting hearse on the outskirts of the capital.

Even as Britain and the world mourned the 36-year-old princess, there was growing public fury at the circumstances of her death, which occurred early yesterday in Paris after photographers chased her car at high speed. Her companion, Dodi Al Fayed, 42, son of the billionaire Egyptian owner of the Harrods department store, was also killed in the crash, as was the driver of the couple's Mercedes-Benz. A bodyguard was seriously injured.

French police formally detained seven photographers, seized their film and were developing it for possible clues to the crash. "This investigation will determine more particularly the role that these people may have played in the genesis of the accident," the Paris prosecutor's office said in a brief statement.

Buckingham Palace was expected to issue details today of Diana's funeral, amid a growing clamor for a state ceremony.

Fayed, a film producer, was buried here last night after a 25-minute Muslim ceremony attended by his distraught father, Mohamed Al Fayed. Earlier, the elder Fayed said in a statement: "This is an appalling and quite needless tragedy. The world has lost a princess who is simply irreplaceable."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said his country was in a "state of shock."

"The people everywhere kept faith with Princess Diana," he said. "They liked her. They loved her. They regarded her as one of the people. She was the people's princess, and that's how she will stay, how she will remain in our hearts and in our memories forever."

In Paris, witnesses said the accident occurred after photographers on motorcycles swarmed the Mercedes that was carrying Diana and Fayed, just before it entered a tunnel along the Seine River near the Eiffel Tower. Within seconds, the car slammed into the 13th piling in the tunnel, spun and hit a tunnel wall. Fayed and the chauffeur were killed instantly; Diana died at a hospital a few hours later.

The only survivor of the crash, bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, received injuries to the head, face and a lung. His remained in intensive care at Salpetriere Hospital, where Diana died of her injuries.

Investigators spent several hours early yesterday examining the skid marks, which measured 20 to 30 yards, left by the car before it slammed into the concrete post.

Police did not release the name of the chauffeur of the Mercedes. French radio reported that he was an employee of the Ritz Hotel, where Diana and Fayed had dined Saturday evening.

Doctors had first tried to revive the princess at the scene of the crash, and then transported her to Salpetriere. They found major chest and lung injuries and opened up her chest to repair a tear in a ruptured pulmonary vein to stop severe internal bleeding.

Dr. Bruno Riou, head of the hospital's intensive care unit, said that Diana had quickly gone into cardiac arrest and that doctors tried for at least two hours to save her, applying internal and external cardiac massage without success. Riou said surgeons stopped trying to re-start her heart after internal bleeding in the chest.

"I think one would say they were unsurvivable injuries," said Alaistair Wilson, director of emergency services at the Royal London Hospital. "The French ambulance service, the people doing the extrication and the hospital certainly appear to me to have done extremely well. On the evidence I've got, they get top marks for doing all and a bit more."

For years, Diana captivated the world, with a glitzy, jet-set

lifestyle that masked an often troubled life. Her circle of friends included pop stars, millionaires and royalty. She also had an uncommon touch with society's needy, throwing herself into charity work for AIDS patients, children and victims of land mines.

But Diana also battled bulimia, made suicide attempts and struggled to reconcile herself with a marriage that began with a lavish ceremony in 1981. By 1992, Charles and Diana were separated; they divorced last year.

Her trials and travails were nearly forgotten as Britain absorbed the shock of her death and watched the unfolding events of the day -- one of the more nightmarish in the history of the British royal family.

Charles broke the news of Diana's death to their children, Prince William, 15, and Prince Harry, 12. Later, they left the family's estate at Balmoral Castle in Scotland and attended church with their father, Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the royal family.

Charles then made a grim pilgrimage to Paris with Diana's sisters, Lady Jane Fellowes and Lady Sarah McCorquordale, to recover Diana's body. At Salpetriere Hospital, they were met by French President Jacques Chirac and his wife, Bernadette.

Hundreds of Parisians gathered near the site of the accident and at the hospital, offering their condolences and tears.

The body was brought back to Britain, the plane landing as the sun was setting over the Northolt air base.

Diana's coffin was easily hoisted by a Royal Air Force honor guard and slipped into a hearse for the journey to the Chapel Royal at St. James' Palace as thousands lined streets in silent tribute.

After the brief airport ceremony, Charles flew back to Scotland to be with Princes William and Harry.

At the same time, 2,000 mourners filled St. Paul's Cathedral for a memorial service to Diana. They recited the Lord's Prayer and sang hymns as a minister told the congregation, "As a nation together and with people around the world, we remember before God, Diana, Princess of Wales, all that she gave of herself, and all that she came to be."

Pub Date: 9/01/97

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