"The memory of that night will stay with me forever," the firefighter said.
On that fated August night in 1997, a firefighter named Xavier Gourmelon didn't think anything was out of the ordinary when he arrived at the scene of an accident not long after midnight. There was a Mercedes car that was completely wrecked inside the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris. And Xavier had no idea who the "blonde woman" sitting in the back seat was.
It took a while before he was struck with the realization that the life of one of the most famous women in the world, Princess Diana, was in his hands.
"...It was an ordinary road accident… What made it extraordinary was the person involved, the world’s most famous woman he tried so desperately to save," said the interviewer of ITV’s Good Morning Britain, who spoke to Xavier about the night that changed history.
Before the horrifying accident that took place in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel, Princess Diana and her boyfriend at the time, Dodi Al Fayed, were speeding off in their car and trying to get the paparazzi off their tail, reported International Business Times.
As the paparazzi chased them, the driver manning the couple's car rammed into a pillar of the tunnel, killing Dodi and the driver right at the spot of the accident, according to History.
As Xavier arrived on the scene with his team, he immediately tried to save the woman in the car who was still alive, whose identity he didn't know at the time.
"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 firefighter said, as quoted by The Sun. "...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. I could see she had a slight injury to her right shoulder but, other than that, there was nothing significant. There was no blood on her at all."
In the middle of tending to her during the haunting incident, the people's princess uttered the very last words that she would ever say. According to the firefighter's account, Princess Diana told him in her disoriented state of mind, "My God, what’s happened?"
Xavier said, "I held her hand and told her to be calm and keep still, I said I was there to help and reassured her. She said, ‘My God, what’s happened?’ I gave her some oxygen and my team and 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.'"
Within moments, he saw that the 36-year-old princess had stopped breathing and went into a cardiac arrest. "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," Xavier recalled.
He believed that she would survive. But later, after Princess Diana was taken to the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital, at 6:00 am, on August 31, 1997, Princess Diana was declared dead and the world lost the beloved People's Princess, according to History.
The only person who survived the terrible accident was Trevor Rees-Jones, Princess Diana's bodyguard who survived despite the serious injuries chest and head injuries that he was left with.
Following investigations into the crash, Rees-Jones revealed that the entire crash is a blur to him and that he only remembers hearing a voice that he believes was Diana's.
"I remember having heard somebody moaning and the name Dodi was uttered but I don't know who said it. On the other hand if there was no-one else there apart from us, I conclude that it was Princess Diana as it was a female voice," the bodyguard said, according to The Telegraph. "These memories are vague and I myself doubt them but I'm mentioning them as these memories are coming back to me repeatedly."
As for Xavier, who heard the very last words that Princess Diana uttered before her time of death was declared, that night still remains in his memory.
"...The whole episode is still very much in my mind. And the memory of that night will stay with me forever," he said, according to The Sun. "...I can still picture the whole scene. It’s something I’ll never forget..."