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Firefighter who resuscitated Princess Diana remembers her final moments on 20th anniversary of her death

The firefighter who initially resuscitated Princess Diana after her 1997 Paris car crash was certain she would live through it.

Sgt. Xavier Gourmelon, who led the response team exactly 20 years ago Thursday and administered CPR to the British royal, said in a Sun interview published Tuesday that he was convinced the Princess of Wales would make it when her heart started beating again and her breathing resumed.

Gourmelon was unaware that he was treating the so-called "People's Princess" when he arrived at the scene of the accident in a Paris tunnel. He resuscitated her and she was conscious and her eyes were open when he pulled her from the wrecked Mercedes she was riding in with Harrods heir Dodi al Fayed and driver Henri Paul.

He said she had a slight injury to her right shoulder but saw no other significant wounds or blood on her.

"I held her hand and told her to be calm and keep still. I said I was there to help and reassured her," Gourmelon said. "She said, 'My God, what's happened?'

“To be honest, I thought she would live. As far as I knew when she was in the ambulance she was alive and I expected her to live," he added. "But I found out later she had died in hospital. It was very upsetting."

Diana, famously eulogized as “the most hunted person of the modern age," suffered cardiac arrest when she was placed on a stretcher. She died at the age of 36.

Prince William, left, and Prince Harry look at tributes left by members of the public outside Kensington Palace in London to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of their mother. (Kirsty Wigglesworth / AFP/Getty Images)
Prince William, left, and Prince Harry look at tributes left by members of the public outside Kensington Palace in London to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of their mother. (Kirsty Wigglesworth / AFP/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, her sons Princes William and Harry -- second and fifth in line to the British throne, respectively -- visited a memorial garden dedicated to Diana at Kensington Palace, her former home.

The princes have worked rigorously to uphold Diana's philanthropic legacy and spoke openly about her life and death in a series of documentaries that aired ahead of Thursday's 20th anniversary.

In the BBC's "Diana, 7 Days," the princes derided the paparazzi; William called their treatment of his mother "utterly appalling" and likened the photographers constantly harassing her to a "pack of dogs." For Harry, Diana's final moments were made worse by the lingering photographers.

"She had quite a severe head injury but was still very much alive on the backseat," Harry said in the documentary. "And those people that caused the accident instead of helping were taking photographs of her dying."

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