Prince Harry and his wife Meghan were involved in a chaotic car chase with paparazzi in New York on Tuesday night that could have had "catastrophic" consequences, the couple's spokesperson said. Meghan's mother was also in the car at the time of the incident and the three narrowly managed to escape the frenzied car chase.
According to reports, the Sussex family along with Meghan's mother Doria Ragland were followed by photographers in a convoy after they left the Women of Vision Awards at the city's Ziegfeld Ballroom. The couple was left shaken and frightened although no one was hurt, according to their security detail.
DÃ©jÃ Vu but Safe
Harry and Meghan described the car chase as "near catastrophic" that went on for more than two hours as paparazzi chased them through Manhattan. The chase brings back the horrific memories of Princess Diana's fatal 1997 crash, following a chase by the paparazzi.
The famous but photo-averse couple said via their spokesman that after leaving an event at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in Midtown on Tuesday night, they were the target of "a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi."
"The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Ms Ragland were involved in a near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi," the spokesperson said.
"This relentless pursuit, lasting over two hours, resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers.
"While being a public figure comes with a level of interest from the public, it should never come at the cost of anyone's safety. Dissemination of these images, given the ways in which they were obtained, encourages a highly intrusive practice that is dangerous to all in involved," the spokesperson added.
However, police claimed the alleged incident wasn't quite as dramatic as the couple claimed.
They called it a "little bit chaotic scene."
Julian Phillips, deputy commissioner of public information in New York, also said that the NYPD 'assisted' the couple's private security team.
The duke and duchess "arrived at their destination and there were no reported collisions, summonses, injuries, or arrests in regard," he said, adding that the behavior of the "numerous" photographers was "challenging."
At a separate press conference, Mayor Eric Adams was questioned about the statement and referred to the incident as "reckless and irresponsible," involving Harry's mother Diana.
"I don't think there's many of us who don't recall how his mom died," the mayor said.
Danger and Drama
Although police downplayed the couple's high-drama claims, they maintained that the incident was still being investigated, describing a somewhat chaotic but largely well-controlled situation.
According to a senior source, there were "no collision reports or 911 calls" and the chase "definitely wasn't two hours."
Harry, 38, and Meghan, 41, accompanied by her mother Doria Ragland, left the ballroom around 9:50 pm, where the former "Suits" actress had been recognized by Gloria Steinem at the Women of Vision Awards dinner.
Writer and photographer Lieba Nesis, who was present when the incident happened told the New York Post that the trio was "dodging paparazzi all night" at the high-profile event.
"They came through the back through the Hertz car rental store, so despite the barricades and police presence up front they dodged the paparazzi and headed through a secret entrance, so many [paparazzi] were left without pictures," the witness said of their covert arrival.
Later, as Harry, Meghan, and Doria were reentering their vehicle, the witness claimed that the photographers "were aggressive but not crazy."
"When Meghan and Harry emerged...they had someone blocking their faces so despite the paparazzi waiting for more than four hours, none of them were able to get shots," they explained.
Another eyewitness told the outlet that the couple's security "were being aâholes from the start."
"They were mocking the paps, provoking them. You expect that kind of thing from security for rappers or whatever, but with good security â which this should be â you expect them to be similar to secret service. These security egged on the paps."
Eyewitnesses said that after they left, there were still a number of photographers around, some of whom started chasing their car.
According to sources close to the couple, up to six 'blacked out' vehicles, may have been involved. These vehicles are suspected of driving on the pavement, running red signals, turning around in a one-way street, driving while taking pictures, and impeding moving traffic.
Omid Scobie, the biographer of the couple, stated on Twitter that the chase 'could have been fatal' and that Harry, Meghan, and Doria are 'understandably shaken but thankful everyone's okay.
However, according to police sources, "at no time was there a high-speed chase" despite the fact that two wheels of one car briefly leaped a curb and that two uniformed policemen claimed to have "nearly missed" the paparazzi as they drove off.
In a bid to evade the paparazzi, the group drove around in circles for approximately an hour between West 57th Street and the FDR Drive until halting at the 19th Precinct on East 67th Street between Third Avenue and Lexington Avenue, according to reports.
The exiled royals then changed vehicles and boarded a yellow taxi.
Sukcharn "Sonny" Singh, a cab driver, said he was hired to transport the royals away from the precinct but that the trip only lasted 10 minutes because they requested to be driven back to the station.
Singh acknowledged that the choice to return was motivated by worries that the paparazzi would keep tracking them and disclose their location.
The cab driver claimed that while they were trapped behind a garbage truck, six paparazzi encircled his car and two cars were following them.
"I never felt like I was in danger. It wasn't like a car chase in a movie," Singh said. "They were quiet and seemed scared but it's New York â it's safe."
According to sources, the couple returned to the station and then left on their own to their home, which was only two blocks away from the precinct. Harry and Meghan, according to a spokeswoman, arrived at their house shortly after midnight.
The dramatic description received criticism from a number of journalists and celebrities.
Megyn Kelly, a former anchor of a Fox talk show who is now a podcaster, termed their allegations "bulls-t" and insisted that a two-hour automobile chase in Manhattan was not feasible.
"Too many street lights/stop signs, too much foot/car traffic & hundreds of places you could safely pull over to protect yourself," Kelly tweeted. "Also if they really want to avoid the paparazzi perhaps the Duchess should stop using them so obviously when she wants to see herself in the paper."
The incident also drew criticism from British writer Piers Morgan, who tweeted: "There was no 2-hour chase, their story is unraveling by the minute."
Caitlyn Jenner, who is used to being pursued by paparazzi, also implied that the chase lasted far longer than she implied as she criticized Harry and Meghan.
"I have been party to paps following me in NY (definitely not 2 hrs and plenty of evidence â kind of the point since they have cameras), LA (even in a city with lots of driving and long distances between destinations, not 2 hours, and AGAIN LOTS OF EVIDENCE) it comes with the territory. Whine whine whine is all these 2 seem to do," Jenner tweeted.