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Triangle Companies Help Reconstruct Paris Tragedy

Posted June 11, 1998

— Thursday night, CBS' "48 Hours" reported about the newest revelations about the Paris auto accident that killed Princess Diana. The show's producers worked with two Triangle companies to create the spectacular animation of the accident.

The spectacular 3D animation of the accident that killed Princess Diana, Dodi Al-Fayed and his driver was a collaborative effort. Brian McHenry used special software, police reports and photographs of the Paris accident to reconstruct the accident for "48 Hours."

"We have some unique tools that are not available anywhere else in the world for doing reconstruction of automobile accidents," McHenry explained. "We were provided enough information to give us a pretty good idea. The skid marks kind of limit the speed that the car can be going, so we know that in going through that to leave that type of skid marks there's a maximum and minimum speed to be able to leave those skid marks."

Dodi Al-Fayed's driver, Henri Paul, had been drinking before the accident and the car was reportedly traveling at high speed. No one was wearing seat belts.

"Well there's been talk of a hundred miles and hour and things like that," McHenry said. "The speed we have is somewhere abound 70 miles-an-hour coming down the hill into the tunnel area, applying brakes and slowing down to approximately 55 miles-an hour when it hits the post."

FromMcHenry Softwarein Cary, the project finally ended in Durham at Flying Foto Factory for completion. There a bank of high powered computers rendered the high resolution 3D animation seen on CBS Thursday night.

Flying Foto created six different points of view of the accident including one from the now famous white Fiat Uno.

"Each view tells a slightly different part of the story in terms of how the accident unfolded," explained Casey Herbert.

Flying Foto Factory and McHenry Software often work together on accident reconstruction and visualization, but this project was particularly poignant.

"I think the most s uprising aspect of it was just the tragedy that the occupants in the vehicle didn't take greater care in protecting themselves in the eventuality of having an accident," Herbert said.

Flying Foto Factory has created 2 and 3D animation forPBS, the Learning Channel andThe Discovery Channel.

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