Paris, August 31, 2023 — On the 26th anniversary of Princess Diana’s untimely demise, Dr. Frederic Mailliez, a French doctor who stumbled upon the horrific car crash that claimed her life, relives the harrowing night that forever linked his name to the late Princess of Wales.
The fateful night of August 31, 1997, saw Dr. Mailliez driving home from a party when he encountered a scene of chaos in the Alma Tunnel in Paris. A mangled Mercedes, billowing smoke, lay crumpled on the tunnel floor, its occupants in dire straits. Oblivious to the identity of the woman inside, he immediately sprang into action to save her life.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Dr. Mailliez revealed the haunting memories that continue to haunt him. “I realize my name will always be attached to this tragic night,” he said. “I feel a little bit responsible for her last moments.”
Recalling the gruesome scene, Dr. Mailliez vividly described his initial impressions: “I walked toward the wreckage. I opened the door, and I looked inside. Four people, two of them were apparently dead, no reaction, no breathing, and the two others, on the right side, were living but in severe condition.”
Among the injured occupants, the front passenger was breathing but injured, while the female passenger, Princess Diana herself, was in critical condition. Dr. Mailliez rushed to his car to call emergency services and retrieve a respiratory bag. “She was unconscious,” he said. “Thanks to my respiratory bag (…) she regained a little bit more energy, but she couldn’t say anything.”
It wasn’t until later that Dr. Mailliez learned the identity of the woman he had treated – Diana, beloved by millions as Britain’s national treasure. “I know it’s surprising, but I didn’t recognize Princess Diana,” he admitted. “My attention was so focused on what I had to do to save her life, I didn’t have time to think, who was this woman.”
As Dr. Mailliez continued his life-saving efforts, he noticed the flash of camera bulbs as paparazzi gathered to document the scene. A subsequent British inquest revealed that Diana’s chauffeur, Henri Paul, was intoxicated and driving at high speed to escape pursuing photographers.
Remarkably, Dr. Mailliez expressed “no reproach” towards the photographers. “They didn’t hamper me having access to the victims… they didn’t interfere with my job,” he recalled.
Firefighters arrived swiftly, and Diana was rushed to a Paris hospital where she tragically passed away a few hours later, along with her companion Dodi Fayed and the driver.
The weight of Diana’s death haunted Dr. Mailliez in the aftermath. “Did I do everything I could to save her? Did I do my job correctly?” he questioned himself. Seeking reassurance, he consulted his medical professors and police investigators, all of whom affirmed that he had done everything in his power to save her.
The 26th anniversary of Diana’s passing rekindles those memories, particularly when Dr. Mailliez drives through the Alma Tunnel. As he stood atop the tunnel, cars rushed past the pillar where the crash occurred, now adorned with a stencil drawing of Diana’s face.
Adjacent to the tunnel, the Flame of Liberty monument has transformed into a memorial site, attracting Diana fans from various generations and nationalities. Diana, once a symbol of emancipation and a fashion icon, remains an enduring figure, even for those born after her tragic demise.
Irinia Ouahvi, a 16-year-old Parisian, shared her admiration for Diana, describing her as a feminist who challenged royal etiquette. “Even with her style, she was a feminist. She challenged royal etiquette, wearing cyclist shorts and casual pants,” Ouahvi said.
Francine Rose, a Dutch 16-year-old who encountered Diana’s story through a recent film, described Diana as an inspiration for her quest for freedom within the confines of the royal family. “She is an inspiration because she was evolving in a strict household, the royal family, and just wanted to be free,” Rose said, encapsulating the enduring allure of Princess Diana even a quarter-century after her tragic end.