Retired lawyer Stanlee Culbreath, who was one of the first witnesses to the tragic scene of the car crash that killed Princess Diana, has spoken out two decades after her death, saying he believed “other forces” were involved in the accident. See his account of the incident.
The 69-year-old says Princess Diana was still alive after the accident and was talking but French emergency services had delayed in coming to her rescue, thereby reducing her chances of survival. He also said a policeman was at the scene but made no move to help the princess. Though he pleaded with the policeman, he was nonchalant and told those who tried to help to get away from the car. He said he remembers telling a friend at the scene that even a junkie on the street will get help faster.
Culbreath also revealed that when emergency services finally arrived and she was released from the car, they passed one hospital but did not take her in there. During the inquest, in 2007, it was disclosed that it took an hour and six minutes from the time Diana was taken from the wrecked car until she reached the hospital. The inquest heard the princess may have lived had French medics not “squandered” crucial minutes treating her at the scene.
Stanlee Culbreath said he remained silent all this while about what went down that night of Diana’s death because her sons, William and Harry, were still too young and he wanted to protect them.
Culbreath said: “I always thought it was suspicious, that other forces played a hand, but now, 20 years on, I question more than ever whether it was a genuine accident. I just think it is dubious.
“If that’s the Princess, why did it take 20 minutes or so to get to her and, when she was finally released (from the car), why did they pass one hospital and take her to another?”
Culbreath told how, at the scene, although at that time unaware Diana was in the wrecked car, he commented to a friend, “Damn, a junkie on Main Street would get waited on quicker than this”.
He added: “There are so many questions I ask myself over and over again about how the accident was handled and if she could have been saved. I pleaded for the police to help, but they were very nonchalant about the entire thing.”
Culbreath, of Columbus, Ohio, had been in Paris on August 31, 1997, as part of a European tour with his friends Clarence Williams and Michael Walker. They arrived in the city hours before the crash and took a late-night sight-seeing tour of the Eiffel Tower. As they made their way back to the hotel in a taxi at around 12.20am, they entered the Pont de l’Alma tunnel and were confronted with the smoldering wreckage of the Princess’s car.
He recalled: “Our taxi driver stopped a few feet from their limo. We got out only a few feet away from their Mercedes. The car was up on the wall and the front passenger door was already open.”
At that time, Culbreath did not know the car’s passengers were Princess Diana, 36, her lover Dodi Fayed, 42, driver Henri Paul, 41, and bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, now 49, who was the sole survivor and only passenger to wear a seat-belt.
He recalled: “We hadn’t heard the bang, as the crash happened just as we got into the tunnel. Their car was smoking, the muffler (from the exhaust) was on the floor. I went over and Trevor Rees-Jones had his legs out of the car and was holding a towel or something to his nose, as he was bleeding heavily. There were only four or five of us there, so I went over to the car and looked into it to see if we could help.
“I didn’t know who was in the back until later but at one point I was… a few inches away from the Princess trying to look through her window.”
He explained: “I remember saying to the guys at the time, ‘Is there an ambulance coming or something?’ as there was no sign of one arriving. After 15 or 20 minutes, there was still no paramedic on the scene and I said to my friends, ‘Damn, a junkie on Main Street would get waited on quicker than this’.
“There was only one cop there I could see who told us to get back. He kept saying, ‘Get away, get away’.
“As the window’s in the rear were dark, I could not see who was the in the back. I was pleading with the officer to open the door… it looked like it could be pulled open. He wasn’t doing sh*t. He wasn’t doing anything. It was as if those there had decided nothing could be done. It’s just my opinion, but it took them a long time to get her out.
“It could have been up to 30 minutes before help came. We were there for at least 15 minutes. Why wasn’t an ambulance there quicker? I never heard an ambulance, the whole time I was there. I never heard a siren. My recollection was that there seemed to be an insurmountable amount time for an emergency vehicle to respond. I said to the guys, ‘I’d hate to get into an accident in Paris as nobody shows up’.
He continued: “It’s common sense that the longer someone is left, their chances of survival are less. When we left, there still wasn’t an ambulance. The speed of which they responded was inadequate. Questions need to be asked.”
Culbreath said he was also skeptical about the delay in getting Diana out of the wreckage and claimed the door on her side could have been opened.
He said: “I thought the car was in a condition where you could open the door. I didn’t feel there was enough damage to the car that you couldn’t open the back door – and the front door was already open. So why couldn’t you go through that door?”