Diana, the Princess of Wales, was killed this morning in an automobile accident in a tunnel by the Seine. The accident also killed Emad Mohamed Fayed, the Harrods heir, and their driver, the police said.
Diana’s death was announced this morning by Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement. She died after being hospitalized in intensive care at the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in southeast Paris.
A bodyguard was seriously injured, according to a police spokesman.
“The car was being chased by photographers on motorcycles, which could have caused the accident,” a spokesman for the Prefecture of Police said. Several motorcyclists were detained for questioning after the crash, Reuters reported, quoting police officials.
The princess, 36, was divorced from Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne, last year. She had vacationed with Fayed, 41, the son of Harrods’s owner, Mohamed Al-Fayed, on the French Riviera earlier this month and had been expected to return to London today to be with her two sons, the Princes William and Harry.
French radio stations reported that a spokesman for the British royal family in London expressed anger and said the accident was predictable because photographers relentlessly pursued the princess wherever she went.
The crash occurred 35 minutes past midnight in the Alma Tunnel, on the right bank of the Seine under the Place de l’Alma, the police said.
The driver was hired from the Ritz Hotel in Paris. The princess and Fayed had been pursued from the Ritz Hotel, where they were believed to be staying after spending time together on the Riviera.
The Paris police said that Chevenement, and the prefect of police, Philippe Massoni, had accompanied the British ambassador in Paris to the hospital where Diana was treated.
The police said the car was totally wrecked. The impact was so great, the car’s radiator was hurled onto the knees of the front-seat passenger. The princess was in the back seat.
On Aug. 21, Diana and Fayed, who is of Egyptian ancestry and is commonly called Dodi, flew to the French Mediterranean resort of St. Tropez for their third holiday in each other’s company in five weeks.
Fayed’s father told The New York Times in London recently that the two were simply “young people getting to know each other.”
Newspapers reported that Diana first met Fayed almost 10 years ago when he and Prince Charles played polo on opposing teams. Films he produced or co-produced included “Chariots of Fire,” “The World According to Garp,” and “Hook.”
Reportedly a multimillionaire, Fayed had homes in London, New York, Los Angeles, and Switzerland and a garage full of luxury cars. He was divorced after a marriage that lasted eight months in 1994.
Diana was catapulted into the public eye at age 19 in 1981 when it was announced that she was engaged to Charles, the heir to the British throne and 12 years her senior.
The couple were married on July 29 that year in London in a ceremony watched by millions and billed as a “fairy-tale wedding.”
Diana soon became a mother, to Prince William, in June 1982. But by the birth of her second son, Harry, in September 1984, her biographer Andrew Morton wrote in “Diana: Her True Story,” she was already suffering from bulimia and had attempted suicide five times.
From 1986, the first press stories began appearing of cracks in the marriage, and Morton later wrote that Charles had resumed his relationship with a married friend, Camilla Parker Bowles.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: KEY DATES IN DIANA’S LIFE Associated Press Key dates in the life of Diana, Princess of Wales: July 1, 1961: Lady Diana Frances Spencer is born, the daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer. July 29, 1981: Married Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, at St. Paul’s Cathedral, while millions watched the “fairy tale wedding.” He is 12 years her senior. June 21, 1982: Prince William Arthur Philip Louis born. Sept. 15, 1984: Prince Harry (Henry Charles Albert David) born. June 15, 1992: After months of speculation about the state of the royal marriage, Andrew Morton’s book “Diana: Her True Story” says Charles has had a longtime affair with a married woman, Camilla Parker Bowles, driving Diana to injure herself and attempt suicide. Aug. 25, 1992: The Sun newspaper prints transcript of phone call monitored in December 1989 between Diana and a man who affectionately calls her “Squidgy.” Dec. 9, 1992: Prime Minister John Major announces to Parliament that Diana and Charles are separating but there are no plans for divorce. Jan. 12, 1993: The Sun publishes transcript of intimate phone call said to be between Camilla and Charles, reportedly monitored December 1989. June 29, 1994: In a TV documentary, Charles says he had committed adultery after the marriage broke down, “us both having tried.” Oct. 3, 1994: Anna Pasternak’s book “Princess in Love” says Diana had five-year affair with her riding instructor James Hewitt. Nov. 20, 1995: In a television interview Diana admits adultery with Hewitt. August 1995: Reports link Diana and rugby star Will Carling. Carling and wife separate Sept. 29. December 1995: Charles receives letter from Queen Elizabeth II urging divorce, and he agrees. Feb. 28, 1996: Diana agrees to divorce. Aug. 28, 1996: Final decree of divorce