Global Courant 2023-05-19 02:43:07
The echoes of the late Princess Diana’s 1997 death in a car accident in Paris are undeniable. More than 25 years later, her son and his wife were chased through the streets of New York City this week in what their team called a “near catastrophic” chase.
That language makes it hard not to conjure up the tragic memory of the circumstances that led to the loss of one of the most beloved members of the British royal family.
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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were in New York to attend the Ms. Foundation, where Meghan was honored for her global advocacy to empower women and girls. As their first public appearance since Prince Harry returned from King Charles’s coronation in London, it initially seemed like a fairly routine affair.
The pair posed on the red carpet before heading inside, where Meghan later claimed her award. It wasn’t until after the event that the situation escalated, with the details differing depending on who you spoke to.
The couple’s spokesperson described “a ring of very aggressive paparazzi” chasing them for more than two hours, sparking worldwide coverage. The spokesperson claimed there were several close calls with other drivers, pedestrians and police officers.
Police later confirmed the main thrust of the story, but offered less colorful language, only describing the situation as “challenging.” On Thursday, questions continued to swirl about exactly what happened and for exactly how long in a city notorious for its traffic jams. CNN hasn’t independently verified every detail of the couple’s account, but in the light of a new day, a clearer picture is emerging.
Here’s what we know: the pair were seen leaving the awards ceremony in a black car, but were later spotted in a yellow cab. Chris Sanchez, who was part of the royal security detail, told us they were immediately followed by a dozen vehicles from the event. He said he had “never seen (or) experienced anything like it” and that “the public was in danger at several points”. He also explained that the pair had switched cars “more than once” during the incident.
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Thomas Buda, who runs a private security firm contracted to help the couple, confirmed Sanchez’s story of reckless driving from the vehicles following them and the Sussexes’ car swap. He said the pair’s convoy took a circuitous route from 23rd Street to 96th Street — up and down busy Manhattan arteries — before security took the pair to the 19th Police Precinct on East 67th Street. From there, the pair were transferred to a yellow cab, but it eventually drove around the block and returned them to the police station.
Taxi driver Sukhcharn Singh told CNN he did not feel threatened by the meeting with photographers, but Harry and Meghan looked “nervous and scared”.
The pair were eventually able to make a clean break during the midnight change of patrol officers, which effectively created a traffic bottleneck in the block, allowing security teams to shoo Harry and Meghan away, according to Buda.
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To answer the question of why this elaborate game of cat and mouse unfolded, we were told by Harry’s team that the couple were staying in a private home and did not want to compromise the safety of their friend’s home by returning directly from the award. Meanwhile, a law enforcement source also said the pair were not staying at a hotel, but at a private residence on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and chose to keep the location a secret so they could come and go.
Statements from the NYPD, the city’s mayor and law enforcement source also confirm that the pair were being followed, though those perceptions of the events are less emotionally charged.
The NYPD issued a more benign statement, saying it had “assisted the private security team” in which “there were numerous photographers who made their transportation a challenge.” New York City Mayor Eric Adams questioned the two-hour time frame, but added that whatever the length, the incident was “reckless” and “irresponsible.”
“Obviously the paparazzi want to get the right shot, they want the right story, but public safety should always be at the forefront,” Adams said.
In a statement obtained by CNN on Thursday, photography agency Backgrid USA said they take the Sussexes’ allegations “seriously” and will investigate. However, they also pushed back, saying photographers at the scene reported “feeling that the pair were not in immediate danger at any point”.
The agency emphasized their commitment to transparent journalism, including the need to provide “honest and factual answers to claims.”
“We would like to clarify that we have received photos and video of last night’s events from four freelance photographers, three of whom were in cars and one on a bicycle. It is important to note that these photographers have a professional responsibility to cover newsworthy events and personalities, including public figures such as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle,” the statement said.
“According to these freelance contributors’ accounts, they covered the couple’s stay in New York City, including the possibility of a post-awards dinner. They had no intention of causing harm or harm as their only tools were their cameras. A few photos even show Meghan Markle smiling in a taxi,” the statement continued.
The Backgrid statement also refuted that one of the four SUVs in the royal convoy was “driving in a manner that could be perceived as reckless” and rejected claims that the incident could have resulted in a fatal disaster.
It is clear from all this that something happened on Tuesday night – even if perceptions of it differ.
To be fair to the Sussexes, they never claimed a high speed chase took place. It has also become clear from conversations with a member of their entourage that they felt they had obeyed the speed limits, that the couple never felt threatened but that the lives of others had been.
CNN, like many other media outlets, has decided not to publish photos taken after the couple walked out of the Ziegfeld Ballroom engagement. However, those images appear to show Prince Harry documenting the moment on his phone, so we may learn even more about what exactly happened from their perspective in the future.
Playing on all of this, Harry is widely known to blame the tabloid press for his mother’s untimely death. He has previously shared how every camera flash takes him “straight back” to one of the worst moments of his life. He has been very vocal in his commitment to ensuring that history does not repeat itself with his wife and has had no qualms about holding the media accountable through legal action over what he considers particularly invasive methods.
A lot of that will probably have been going through his head during this late night episode. Even the most staunch critics could understand the kind of traumatic repercussions that could have sprung up for Harry in this situation.
Another remarkable element is the silence of his family. Both Buckingham Palace, home to the king, and Kensington Palace, home to the Prince of Wales, declined to comment on the story. We know that the Sussexes heard nothing from the royal family after the story came out – as some might expect in normal family circumstances. But given the rift between the two sides, there’s probably been a broader decision that the household just can’t respond to or deal with the headlines surrounding Prince Harry and Meghan every time they get mixed up with the press.