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Princess Diana’s ‘Rare’ Car Crash Injury Shouldn’t Have Killed Her, According To Expert

by Kim Wong-Shing
Kim Wong-Shing is a staff writer at LittleThings. Her work spans beauty, wellness, pop culture, identity, food, and other topics. She is a contributing writer at NaturallyCurly, and her work has also appeared in HelloGiggles, Lifehacker, Wear Your Voice Magazine, and other outlets. She grew up in Philadelphia, attended Brown University, and is now based in New Orleans.

Princess Diana could have survived the car accident that killed her, according to a forensic pathologist.

Dr. Richard Shepherd is the top forensic pathologist in the UK, and he investigated the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. In a new book excerpted by the Daily Mail Sunday, Dr. Shepherd shared his perspective on Diana’s case.

Dr. Shepherd says that Diana suffered only a few broken bones and a small chest injury, including a tiny tear in one of her veins. Unfortunately, that small tear was in the exact wrong place.

“Her specific injury is so rare that in my entire career I don’t believe I’ve seen another,” Dr. Shepherd wrote.

“Diana’s death is a classic example of the way we say, after almost every death: if only. If only she had hit the seat in front at a slightly different angle.”

Moreover, if Diana had been wearing a seat belt, she’d likely still be alive today, Dr. Shepherd says. She could have made it out with a “black eye,” some “fractured ribs,” and a “broken arm in a sling.”

It’s been nearly 22 years since Diana, Princess of Wales, was fatally injured in a car accident. In the decades since, conspiracy theories have swirled about how and why Princess Diana died.

Now a top forensic pathologist is sharing his own perspective on Diana’s injuries and death.

First, a recap of the tragic car accident: Princess Diana was in the car with the man she was dating at the time, Dodi Fayed. The two had gone out to dinner in Paris, but they had to leave early because they were being hounded by paparazzi and fans.

They left in a limousine driven by a French driver, Henri Paul, along with Diana’s bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones.

But they never made it home. Less than 2 miles from the restaurant, the car crashed while going through a tunnel.

Both Dodi Fayed and Henri Paul died on impact. Princess Diana, however, was still alive when authorities arrived, as was her bodyguard.

As it turns out, Diana’s injuries weren’t so extreme that her death was unavoidable, according to forensic pathologist Dr. Richard Shepherd. His new book was excerpted by the Daily Mail Sunday.

“She actually suffered just a few broken bones and a small chest injury — but this included a tiny tear in a vein in one of her lungs,” Dr. Shepherd wrote.

“To the ambulance services, she initially seemed injured but stable, particularly as she was able to communicate,” he explained.

Unfortunately, the emergency crew was initially focused on saving her bodyguard, Trevor. While everyone was focused on him, the vein in Diana’s lung was “slowly bleeding into her chest,” Dr. Shepherd explained.

Diana was taken to the hospital. She lost consciousness in the ambulance, though, and went into cardiac arrest. By the time surgeons identified the problem and tried to repair the vein, it was too late.

“Diana’s was a very small injury — but in the wrong place,” Dr. Shepherd wrote. “Diana’s death is a classic example of the way we say, after almost every death: if only.”

“If only she had hit the seat in front at a slightly different angle. If only she had been thrown forward 10mph more slowly. If only she had been put in an ambulance immediately.”

After the accident, media outlets initially reported that the accident was the result of the paparazzi relentlessly trailing after the car. In fact, that’s still how many people think of the incident today.

But the story isn’t quite that simple. Henri was driving drunk at the time of the accident, and nobody in the car was wearing a seat belt except for Diana’s bodyguard — the only person who survived the accident.

Dr. Shepherd writes that “the biggest if only, in Diana’s case, was within her own control. If only she had been wearing a seat belt.”

“Had she been restrained, she would probably have appeared in public two days later with a black eye, perhaps a bit breathless from the fractured ribs and with a broken arm in a sling.”