This Is What Happened to the Only Survivor of Princess Diana’s Car Accident

It's a miracle that Trevor Rees-Jones made it out alive.

Trevor ReesPhoto: Heptagon/Shutterstock

The tale of Trevor Rees-Jones

Half past midnight on August 31, 1997, a black Mercedes crashed into a concrete pillar outside the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris. The world mourned the loss of Princess Diana in the wake of the crash, but it’s easy to forget that she wasn’t the only victim. Driver Henri Paul and Diana’s boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, also lost their lives that night. Only one passenger came out alive: Trevor Rees-Jones, Fayed’s bodyguard.

In the front passenger seat of the car, Rees (who later dropped Jones from his name) had the protection of an airbag, though like the other passengers, he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. Still, he didn’t come out unscathed. His face was crushed beyond recognition, the bones turned to powder. It took 150 pieces of titanium to reconstruct his face, and he was put into a coma for 10 days as doctors worked on that surgery, plus a broken wrist and chest injuries. It was a miracle he survived. (Don’t miss these moving photos of Kensington Palace after Princess Diana’s death.)

In the wake of the crash, rumours and conspiracy theories began to emerge about why the accident happened and whether it could have been prevented—and Rees wasn’t immune from the finger-pointing. Critics argued he shouldn’t have let a supposedly visibly drunk Paul drive; he should have insisted Diana and Fayed wear seatbelts; he should have told Paul to slow down. Rees himself had little recollection of the fateful night’s events, the head trauma having caused amnesia. Meanwhile, Fayed’s father insisted Rees was lying about memory loss to avoid blame. (Here are nine secrets about Princess Diana no one knew about until after her death.)

Given the strain with Fayed’s father after the crash, Rees quit his job with the family the year after the accident. He moved back to Shropshire county with his mom and stepfather, working at a friend’s sportswear store.

At first, Rees kept the few memories he had of the tragedy to himself. To this day, he’s given few interviews, though he did publish a book in 2000, The Bodyguard’s Story: Diana, the Crash, and the Sole Survivor, putting his side on the record once and for all. One of his few recollections of that night was a woman’s voice (presumably Diana’s) moaning “Dodi,” though he couldn’t say for sure if it was a real or false memory. Most of the reported £1 million ($1.5 million) he made from the book deal went toward legal fees for lawsuits led by Fayed’s dad. In the 2008 inquest of Diana’s death, though, it was concluded that Paul’s drunk driving and speeding—not actions by Rees, who police said was telling the truth—were to blame for the accident.

Rees later worked in Iraq, where he was living during the inquest, but he and his wife are reportedly now back in Shropshire, where he works as a security consultant and plays rugby with a local team. It’s now back to a quiet life—just the way he wanted it.

Next, check out the unsolved mysteries surrounding Diana’s death.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest