Sun, August 31, 1997
Diana's Crash: What Really Happened
A great deal of national news has centered on an automobile accident that took place in a Paris tunnel just after midnight on the morning of Sunday, August 31. Reports indicate that Princess Diana, her boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed, and his sometime chauffeur, Henri Paul, were killed in the high-speed collision, which resulted from a chase – in excess of 120 mph – involving rabid "paparazzi" photographers on motorcycles. Recently, discussions have focused upon the possible causes of the crash, issues such as Paul's 0.18% Blood Alcohol Content or the fact that passengers Dodi and Diana, as well as their driver, failed to wear safety belts inside the car. Fayed's bodyguard, who survived the collision, was reportedly the only passenger wearing his safety belt. Also under contention is whether the car's pursuers, by virtue of their harassment, may have a causal or contributory relationship to the fatal collision with the tunnel's walls and support piling. But these disputes are over tiny details. Little remains to be unearthed about these elements of the story; it is more likely that other undiscovered factors are of greater significance in determining what truly took place that night.
What are we taking for granted in the case of the fatal collision in that Paris tunnel? Consider these facts:
Diana and Dodi had shaken the paparazzi four days before the collision alongside the Seine – photographers had only just caught up with them at the party in the Paris Ritz from which they left early.
Dodi Al Fayed's usual chauffeur left the party before the driver involved in the collision, in an attempt to "lure photographers away from Diana and Dodi."
Much has been made in recent news of a Dodi Fayed impersonator who had fooled many people close to Fayed.
Approximately 20 rolls of film exposed by the motorcycle photographers during and just after the chase have been confiscated by Paris officials.
Diana's body will not be lying "in state" for mourners to see her and say their final goodbyes.
They had a head start from their pursuers, a series of decoy cars and body doubles at their disposal, and all evidence to identify those in the car just after the crash – in fact any evidence of Diana's death – has been destroyed. We are jumping to more than a few conclusions if we assume that Diana and Dodi were involved in the chase and collision which led to the destruction of that Mercedes sedan we all saw on television, being extracted from the tunnel.
It has been no secret over the past 16 years that Princess Diana has become the most photographed person in the world. Her clashes with disruptive paparazzi photographers have been documented over the years; they follow her on vacation, sometimes snapping pictures from afar with long lenses but more often up close and confrontational. What hope does Diana have of any refuge from these photographers, especially amid divorce finalizations and new glamourous romances? The answer: None. We've seen the ski-slope footage. They don't listen to reason. While living on this Earth, Diana could hope for no repreive from the constant barrage of cameramen.
Diana and Dodi stood to gain a great deal in terms of their own peace and privacy from a public acceptance of their death. Weighed against the forfeiture of his inheritance and her further contact with her adored sons, the idea of lifetime privacy together may have been too much to pass up. Having lost the paparazzi for a few days, they had a rare opportunity to orchestrate a complicated charade that only someone with their influence could have put together. Is it impossible to imagine that Diana and Dodi left the party with Dodi's regular driver, then near-approximate doubles were placed in the car with the new driver and sent off to greet the motorcycles? Is it impossible to imagine that these elite members of the most prominent socio-economic circles held enough influence to send three other people to meet their death in order to advance their own agenda? Friends and co-workers of Henri Paul said it was extremely uncharacteristic for him to be drinking as much as his B.A.C. would indicate. It's clear that someone made the chauffeur drink more than he ordinarily would. What turn of events could be better, extricating the couple from the tiresome watchful eye of public opinion while pointing to the aggressive paparazzi as integral causes for the crash? Dodi and Di live peacefully ever after, and the photographers come under new scrutiny for their decades of inconsiderate intrusions. In an interview last year, Diana herself prophesied that future paparazzi encounters, if escalated out-of-hand more than her past experiences, could lead to life-threatening situations for her. Is it so hard to believe that she and her boyfriend organized just that occasion to solve their problem with the photographers?
Personally, I'm all for it. The sheer Mission: Impossible -ness of it all is thrilling. The paparazzi deserve the condemnation – any celebrity can tell you. Look at what happened to Schwarzenegger or Alec Baldwin. Tom Cruise has mentioned experiencing a similar incident in the same tunnel. Like George Clooney says, "I wonder how you sleep at night. You should be ashamed." And Diana deserves a break; she's a great humanitarian and she's used her power and influence to do good for a number of years. She has borne two beautiful children into the royal family. It's her turn to take some time off. I applaud the strategy involved and I wish her and Dodi well in their long, exiled life. But don't misinterpret me – I don't say this to diminsish the world's grief and mourning. The funeral was a truly beautiful service, and for all they know, it happened that way – and their belief is essential in completing the illusion. Diana is a beautiful person, and will be missed. Maybe I'm wrong about all this, but either way I truly believe they'll be in a happier place now, and that makes me glad.