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Diana Bodyguard Sues Ritz Hotel

By Nicolas Marmie
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, September 23, 1998; 12:04 p.m. EDT

PARIS (AP) -- Former bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, the sole survivor of the car crash that killed Princess Diana, filed suit today against the Ritz Hotel and the Etoile-Limousine car service for ``endangering the lives of others.''

At the time of the Aug. 31, 1997, crash, Rees-Jones was an employee of Ritz owner Mohamed Al Fayed, the father of Dodi Fayed, Diana's companion who also died in the crash in a traffic tunnel under the Place d l'Alma.

The driver of the car, Henri Paul, the chief of security at the Ritz Hotel, also was killed in the crash. He was legally drunk and taking prescription drugs for depression at the time.

The Ritz maintains photographers chasing the couple precipitated the accident.

The legal action marked the first time that the Ritz management and the car company have been legally targeted for responsibility in the crash.

The lawsuit blames both the Ritz and Etoile-Limousine for ``failing to provide a licensed driver'' for the Mercedes in which the princess was riding.

Paul was not licensed to drive the Mercedes 280S sedan, provided to the Ritz by Etoile-Limousine. Chauffeurs need a special license to drive such a large and powerful car.

It remains unclear whether Ritz management, including Al Fayed, was aware that Paul had been drinking and taking medication before driving the princess.

Questions recently have been raised as to whether the car had faulty brakes.

The offense of endangering the lives of others is punishable by a maximum one year in jail and a fine of 100,000 francs ($17,500). The suit is the first step in a process that could lead to Rees-Jones seeking damages.

Rees-Jones' London lawyer, David Crawford, said it would be up to the French court ``to decide who is responsible and for which offenses.''

If those parties were found guilty, Crawford's statement said, ``those responsible may also be liable to pay damages to Trevor Rees-Jones.''

Rees-Jones fell into a coma after the crash and his face had to be surgically reconstructed. He was questioned several times by French judicial officials but remembered very little of the fatal evening.

He remained for a time on Al Fayed's payroll but later quit and went to work part-time for a sports shop in central England.

Rees-Jones' complaint could lead to new parties, including the Ritz and the limousine service, being placed under formal investigation.

Another of his lawyers, Christian Curtil, specifically requested the lawsuit be added to the investigation into the accident, currently being led by Judge Herve Stephan.

Nine photographers and one motorcycle courier have been placed under formal investigation on charges of manslaughter and failure to assist persons in danger.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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