The firefighter and first-responder had no idea that it was Princess Diana when he went to help.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on February 1, 2021. It has since been updated.
It's been 25 years since the day a fatal accident took away one of the most beloved personalities in the world. We already know how she spent her last day alive in Paris.
A firefighter who was one of the first responders when the car Princess Diana was in crashed in a tunnel in Paris and was with her in her final moments during the early hours of August 31, 1997, revealed more about it.
Xavier Gourmelon, 50, had no idea who it was when he went to save her so he treated her like any other person. He gave her CPR moments after the fatal crash and thought that she would be saved. He also added that she was conscious and her eyes were open when he pulled her out from the crushed Mercedes. A few minutes later, she suffered a cardiac arrest while she was placed on the stretcher, he told Mirror UK.
He gave her some oxygen before taking her out of the wrecked car, held her hand to comfort her, and asked her to stay calm. Diana then asked him, "My God, what's happened?" Gourmelon adds that there was no blood on her, he could see a slight injury to her right shoulder but did not think it to be significant.
“We were very close to there and it took less than three minutes to reach it. My ten-man team was in two trucks and we were first to arrive. The car was in a mess and we just dealt with it like any road accident. We got straight to work to see who needed help and who was alive... The woman, who I later found out was Princess Diana, was on the floor in the back. She was moving very slightly and I could see she was alive," he told Sun UK.
"I stayed by her side as she was taken out of the car. It was very quick because we didn’t have to cut any of the wreckage. We are all trained to give first aid and I saw that she suffered a cardiac arrest and stopped breathing," he added.
The father-of-two, who is no longer a firefighter and is in charge of emergency services at Brest airport, said, "I massaged her heart and a few seconds later she started breathing again. 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. It was very upsetting."
The first responder, who worked in Paris for 22 years, has spoken about Princess Diana's last moments in public only once before while giving evidence at Diana’s inquest in 2007.
“I know now that there were serious internal injuries, but the whole episode is still very much in my mind. 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," he added. He knew about her but since he never followed British royalty closely, he couldn't recognize her.
Princess Diana, mother-of-two, died due to the crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel with rumored lover Dodi Al-Fayed and driver Henri Paul. Trevor Rees-Jones, a bodyguard for Fayed's family, is the only one who survived the crash. However, he doesn't remember what happened exactly before the car hit the 13th pillar inside the tunnel.
Her state funeral was held on September 6, 1997, in London.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Mike Lawn / Stringer