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Driver had inexplicable carbon monoxide levels

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Di investigation to end in October

PARIS - Nearly a year after Princess Diana's death, investigators are still examining the blood of driver Henri Paul - this time not for alcohol, but to explain an abnormally high level of carbon monoxide.

The revelation came in a rare statement Tuesday by prosecutors in the case, who announced that their investigation would end in October, when several ongoing tests are concluded. It was the first comprehensive statement prosecutors had issued since the early days of the case, when they described the elevated alcohol level in Paul's blood.

Paul was killed in the crash last August in the Pont de l'Alma traffic tunnel, along with Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed. Repeated blood tests found that he was heavily drunk at the time. That, and the high speed of his car, have been the most widely accepted causes of the crash - after a year of tantalizing leads and painstaking detective work.

Among the tests still in progress is one on "the origin of the level of carbon monoxide, slightly higher than average, found in the blood of driver Henri Paul."

The origin of the carbon monoxide isn't clear, but the gas could cause dizziness, headaches, nausea and disorientation - even leaving a person in a coma.

"A normal, healthy person doesn't have carbon monoxide in their blood, unless they're smoking two packs a day or working in an underground garage with no ventilation," said Dr. Claude Guez, a general physician in Paris. Paul reportedly was not known to be a heavy smoker.

A separate investigation, the statement said, regards efforts to treat Diana after the accident. Some doctors, especially in the United States, claim she would have stood a better chance of survival if she had been rushed to the hospital immediately rather than treated on the scene.

A third probe involves lab tests on the body of the wrecked Mercedes.

Tuesday's statement came after a day in which Judge Herve Stephan questioned two key witnesses: the president of the Ritz Hotel, Frank Klein, and its director, Claude Roulet. No details were immediately available.

The Ritz is owned by Mohamed Al Fayed - father of Dodi Fayed. The hotel rented the Mercedes from the Etoile Limousine company, and questions recently have been raised as to whether it had faulty brakes - and whether the Ritz was warned about this.

The prosecutors' office said it released the statement in response to a crush of media queries surrounding the anniversary of Diana's Aug. 31 death.

Among the details it provided:

More than 60 police officers were mobilized during the first 72 hours after the crash.
Police have interviewed 153 people as potential witnesses to the crash.
They also interviewed almost 3,000 owners of Fiat Unos in an effort to find the car that is believed to have brushed against the Mercedes just before it crashed. Although the statement didn't say so, that effort is believed to have been unsuccessful, and police reportedly have essentially given up the search.
By The Associated Press

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