Two decades after Princess Diana‘s tragic death on August 31, 1997, the firefighter who responded to the scene of the car collision has recalled -- for the very first time -- the royal's final moments in an interview with The Sun.
“The car was in a mess and we just dealt with it like any road accident,” Xavier Gourmelon said of the accident at the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris. “We got straight to work to see who needed help and who was alive. Diana said to me, ‘My God, what’s happened?’ ”
According to the now-retired firefighter, the princess was conscious and had her eyes open when he pulled her out of the wrecked Mercedes.
“The woman, who I later found out was Princess Diana, was on the floor in the back,” he continued. “She was moving very slightly and I could see she was alive. I could see she had a slight injury to her right shoulder but, other than that, there was nothing significant.”
He added: “There was no blood on her at all.”
After she was taken out of the car, she suffered cardiac arrest. Gourmelon said he was able to resuscitate the ‘People’s Princess,’ but she later died at the hospital.
He had believed that she’d live through the terrible accident, but was unaware that there were serious internal injuries.
"I massaged her heart and a few seconds later she started breathing again," he recalled in the detailed interview. "It was a relief, of course, because, as a first responder, you want to save lives -- and that's what I thought I had done. To be honest, I thought she would live. As far as I knew when she was in the ambulance, she was alive and I expected her to live. But I found out later she had died in hospital.”
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Gourmelon, who was barred from talking about his experience while serving in the fire service, also recalled how Diana's bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, attempted to reach the beloved royal from the front seat of the car -- despite his own “very severe facial injuries.”
"He kept asking for the princess, saying, 'Where is she? Where is she?'" he said. "But my team told him to keep calm and not speak. I told him that none of my men spoke English so it was better for him to keep still and not move. I told him not to worry we were looking after everyone."
Gourmelon said the memory of that fateful night will stay with him forever.
"The whole episode is still very much in my mind," he said. "And the memory of that night will stay with me forever.”