Survivor of crash that killed Diana says he remembers nothing
By CRAIG R. WHITNEY, c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service, PARIS

The sole survivor of the high-speed car crash that killed Diana, Princess of Wales, three weeks ago told a French investigating judge Friday that he remembered nothing about the accident, an official familiar with the investigation said.

But the survivor, Trevor Rees-Jones, a 29-year-old former British paratrooper who worked as a bodyguard for the family of Dodi Fayed, the Princess's companion, reportedly said their French driver, found to have been legally drunk when he crashed, seemed "perfectly fine" before he took the wheel, at about 12:20 a.m. on Aug. 31.

Rees-Jones was seated in the right front seat of the Mercedes S280 limousine beside the driver, Henri Paul, when Paul lost control at an estimated 90 miles an hour and crashed in a road tunnel along the Seine about five minutes later.

Rees-Jones suffered severe head and facial injuries and underwent a 10-hour operation two weeks ago to reconstruct his jaw. Because his injuries were so severe, Friday was the first time the investigating judge, Herve Stephan, had questioned him as a witness.

The judge interviewed Rees-Jones for about half an hour in Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, where he and Diana were taken after the crash.

Paul, 41, the assistant chief of security at the Ritz Hotel, which is owned by Fayed's father and where he and the princess had dined that night, was found with a blood alcohol content between 0.173 and 0.187 percent, more than three times the legal limit, prosecutors said later.

An official familiar with Rees-Jones' testimony said the bodyguard had told Stephan that he remembered photographers in front of the Ritz after dinner and getting into the car with Diana and Fayed, but little more. He said the couple intended to spend the night in a Fayed family apartment near the Arc de Triomphe.

"Retrograde amnesia is very common in cases like this," said a leading American anesthesiologist, Ellison C. Pierce Jr., former chairman of the anesthesia department at Deaconess Hospital in Boston.

French doctors said that Rees-Jones had lapsed in and out of consciousness before recovering markedly early this week, and that there was an outside chance he might recover some of his lost memory as time went on. Stephan is expected to interview him again.

It is unclear whether Rees-Jones has been visited by an attorney acting on his behalf, or indeed whether he knows the others in the car were killed. Among the key unanswered questions in the inquiry is whether, as several witnesses have said, a motorcycle and a slower-moving car interfered with the Mercedes as Paul roared down a curving incline into the underpass beneath Place de l'Alma at three times the legal speed limit.




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