PARIS — French doctor Frederic Mailliez, the first physician on the scene of Princess Diana’s fatal car accident in Paris 20 years ago, says he gave first aid to the victims before knowing who he was treating.
Mailliez was off-duty when he drove into the Alma road tunnel on Aug. 31, 1997, a few seconds after the high-speed crash.
He wondered “why there were so many journalists around the Mercedes as I was giving first aid.” It was only when he turned on his television the next morning that he learned the answer, Mailliez recounted Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press.
Diana was pronounced dead a few hours after the crash that occurred while she and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, were being chauffeured by an intoxicated driver and pursued by photographers. A bodyguard was the car’s sole survivor.
On that summer night, Mailliez, an emergency doctor, was driving along the Seine river and approaching the tunnel when he saw a smoky accident scene ahead. He stopped and went to investigate.
When he opened a door of the crumpled Mercedes, he saw four people, two of them in cardiac arrest. The other two, including Diana, were still alive.
“They were reacting, but clearly had significant injuries,” the doctor said. He immediately called for emergency rescue services and went to work without the medical equipment he would normally use in a life-threatening situation.
“I just had my bare hands,” he lamented.
For several long minutes, Mailliez was the only doctor at the scene. His full attention went to the emergency before him and “at no point did I come to understand who these people were.”
For a long time after, he wondered if he should have done anything differently, whether he could have done anything that would have saved the 36-year-old princess’ life.
“I checked with myself and I checked also with other doctors, professors of medicine, and actually I couldn’t have done anything better than what I did,” he said.
Mailliez understands why people were, and still are, attached to Diana.
“She was endearing. She was apparently starting a new life. She seemed happy. And then she died in a stupid, dumb accident. A princess cannot die in a stupid accident,” he said. “It’s unfair. It’s not normal. I think that’s one of the reasons why people remember this accident as something tragic and unfair.”
The doctor says he doesn’t “believe in destiny, but it’s still touching for me to think that I’m an emergency doctor, I speak English, and it happened that I arrived 30 seconds after the accident and I treated Princess Diana.”
“I was there during her last minutes and maybe my words, when I spoke to her, were the last words she could hear.”
CATHERINE GASCHKA, Associated Press