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Sole survivor of crash that killed Diana regains consciousness

September 8, 1997

PARIS (AP) _ The bodyguard who was the sole survivor of the car crash that killed Princess Diana has regained consciousness after surgery to repair his severely injured face, a Paris hospital reported today.

The bodyguard’s parents said, however, that it would be ``some time″ before their son could speak with police.

Trevor Rees-Jones remains in the intensive care unit, the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital said in a statement. It indicated his condition was improving.

Rees-Jones, 29, was hospitalized with severe jaw and facial injuries, as well as bruises to his lungs and head after the Aug. 31 crash.

Jill and Ernie Rees-Jones said their son underwent a 10-hour operation on Thursday.

``The operation was a success and he has started on a long road to what we expect to be a full recovery,″ the parents said in a statement released by the British Embassy.

They added, however, that ``It will be some time before he will be able to speak to investigators.″

``He is currently in a state of awakeness,″ the hospital statement said.

Police are eager to question Rees-Jones about the crash that killed the Princess of Wales, her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul.

Rees-Jones, Fayed’s bodyguard, may have answers as to how the Mercedes went out of control in a tunnel at the Pont de l’Alma bridge.

Attention is increasingly focusing on Paul, assistant security chief at the Ritz hotel that is owned by Dodi’s father, Mohamed al Fayed.

Two blood tests have shown Paul was legally drunk. And officials said from the start the Mercedes was traveling at an apparently excessive speed, which numerous accounts by eye witnesses have corroborated.

In the first days of the investigation, attention had focused on the role of paparazzi trailing Diana and Dodi.

Nine photographers and a photo courier have been placed under formal investigation that could lead to charges of manslaughter and failure to assist persons in danger.

According to judicial sources, evidence in the manslaughter count is thin and contradictory. Evidence the photographers failed to aid the victims, snapping pictures instead, appears more substantial.

Police were checking the photographers’ mobile phones to see if calls had been placed to police or rescue teams. According to Sunday’s Journal du Dimanche, there was no indication any had, although it was not clear whether the checks were finished.

It is a crime in France not to help victims, punishable by a fine and up to five years in prison.

Britain’s Observer newspaper quoted Rees-Jones’ grandmother as saying he spoke with his visiting mother and stepfather, telling them he felt partly responsible for the accident because he was in charge, even though he could do nothing to prevent it.

Hospital spokeswoman Henriette Chaibriant quoted doctors, responding to the article, as saying ``it seems surprising he could have talked to his family.″

She has denied previous reports his tongue was cut out in the accident.

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