New York: The Indian-American cab driver who drove Prince Harry and his wife Meghan for about 10 minutes as they were chased by paparazzi after he picked them up from a police station in New York’s Manhattan said that the couple were “pretty nervous”
Sukhcharn Singh, the driver who drove the Duke and Duchess of Sussex briefly on Tuesday night as they were trailed in their car by photographers, said he instantly recognised his passengers.
"I was on 67th Street and then the security guard hailed me. Next thing you know, Prince Harry and his wife were hopping into my cab," he said.
"We got blocked by a garbage truck, and all of a sudden paparazzi came and started taking pictures," he said.
Singh said Harry, 38, and Meghan, 41, were about to give him their location but told him to go back to the police station.
"They were nice people, they looked nervous. I think they were being chased the whole day or something. They were pretty nervous," Singh told Sky News.
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"Near catastrophic car chase"
In a statement, Harry and Meghan's spokesperson said on Wednesday the couple had experienced a "near catastrophic car chase" on Tuesday.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) later said they assisted the private security team protecting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
"There were numerous photographers that made their transport challenging," it said.
The police, however, said the couple "arrived at their destination and there were no reported collisions, summonses, injuries, or arrests." Harry and Meghan were in New York attending an awards ceremony - the Ms Foundation Women of Vision Awards - along with Meghan's mother Doria Ragland.
When they were chased after leaving the event, the spokesperson said, the couple tried to avoid the paparazzi by going to a Manhattan police station - which is where Singh picked them up.
Singh laughed when asked if it was a "near catastrophic car chase".
"I don't think that's true, it's exaggerated. Don't read too much into that," he said.
When asked if he felt he or his passengers were in danger, he said, "No, New York City is the safest place to be", adding that there are police personnel on every corner.
"So, there is no need to be afraid in New York," he added. According to a report in The Washington Post newspaper, Singh picked up Harry, Meghan, her mother and a security guard around 11 p.m. on Tuesday outside the New York City Police Department's 19th precinct.
The report quoted him as saying that he drove them for a brief period, during which they were pursued by other vehicles.
"Singh estimated that the entire journey lasted 10 minutes, and said he got the impression from the group that they had been already pursued by paparazzi before entering his car," according to the report.
Singh said they were pursued by two vehicles: a black Honda Accord and an older gray Honda CR-V.
"They kept following us and were coming next to the car. They took pictures as we stopped and were filming us," he said.
Singh said the security guard was concerned about the photographers and asked him to return to the police station.
The guard thought they were too exposed and didn't want their location shared more widely, he said.
New York City Mayor: Incident reckless and irresponsible
New York City Mayor Eric Adams has described the incident as "reckless and irresponsible".
Adams, responding to a question on the incident during an announcement on combating retail theft in New York City, said Wednesday that while the press and the paparazzi want to get the right shot and right story, public safety must always be at the forefront.
Adams said two NYPD officers could have been injured in the chase.
"New York City is different from a small town somewhere. You shouldn't be speeding anywhere, but this is a densely populated city, and I think all of us, I don't think there's many of us who don't recall how his mom died and it would be horrific to lose an innocent bystander during a chase like this and something to have happened to them as well.
"So, I think we have to be extremely responsible. I thought that was a bit reckless and irresponsible," the mayor said in a statement.
Harry's mother Princess Diana and her partner Dodi Fayed, an Egyptian film producer and son of billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed, were being chased relentlessly by paparazzi and died when their car crashed in an underpass in Paris in August 1997.
In response to the assertion of the couple's spokesperson that the car chase lasted two hours, Adams said he "would find it hard to believe that there was a two-hour high-speed chase" in a city as crowded and dense as New York.
"I find it hard to believe, but we will find out the exact duration of it. But if it's 10 minutes, a 10-minute chase is extremely dangerous in New York City. We have a lot of traffic, a lot of movement, a lot of people are using our streets," he said.
He said that any type of high-speed chase that involves something of that nature is inappropriate. "Police do it under limited circumstances when they're going after violent people, but to do it because you want to get the right shot can turn out to be a place where people can be harmed in a real way," he said.
Highly intrusive practice
The statement by Harry and Meghan's spokesperson said that 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," it said.
Pictures that have appeared on social media have shown Harry, Meghan and her mother Ragland in a taxi.
Harry and Meghan quit their royal duties in 2020 and moved to the United States partly because of what they described as intense media harassment.
The prince has long spoken out about his anger about press intrusion which he blames for the death of his mother Princess Diana, who was killed when her limousine crashed as it sped away from chasing paparazzi in Paris in 1997.
(With inputs from PTI)
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