It’s been 20 years since Princess Diana tragically died in a fatal car crash in Paris and, in his first-ever interview since that moment on Aug. 30, 1997, the firefighter who tried to save Diana is revealing details of that heartbreaking night.
Xavier Gourmelon, who says he’s giving the interview now because he’s now retired, spent 22 years as a firefighter in Paris and told The Sun that it took his team “less than three minutes to reach” the Pont de l’Alma tunnel, where the crash had occurred.
In the interview, Gourmelon shares harrowing details of the fateful night, and revealed that his ten-man team “dealt with it like any road accident” and “got straight to work to see who needed help and who was alive.”
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Upon reaching her Mercedes, the firefighter remembers Diana asking him, “My God, what’s happened?” He noticed a slight injury on her right shoulder, but otherwise, “there was no blood on her at all.”
“The woman, who I later found out was Princess Diana, was on the floor in the back,” he recalls. “She was moving very slightly and I could see she was alive.”
Gourmelon says that he held Diana’s hand as he calmed her down, gave her oxygen and then quickly took her out of the crashed car, which is when she stopped breathing. That’s when he performed CPR.
“I massaged her heart and a few seconds later she started breathing again,” he recalls. “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.
“The whole episode is still very much in my mind,” he continues in the detailed interview. “And the memory of that night will stay with me forever. I had no idea then that it was Princess Diana. It was only when she had been put into the ambulance that one of the paramedics told me it was her.”
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Since the ordeal, Gourmelon has kept silent about his experience that night both out of respect and because of French law.
“This is the first time I have spoken to the media,” he says. “As a fireman, you are part of the French military, so you are forbidden to talk. Now I have left the fire service and I felt it was okay.”