Prince Philip walked away from last week's car crash, but a former royal protection officer says the accident could have been much worse

By Simon Perry and Stephanie Petit
January 22, 2019 02:26 PM

Prince Philip walked away from last week’s car crash near the royal family’s Sandringham Estate, but a former royal protection officer says the accident could have easily been much worse – and could have been avoided completely.

On Thursday, the Duke of Edinburgh, 97, was involved in a crash in Norfolk that left him uninjured, although those who were at the scene of the accident said they saw blood. Philip overturned his Land Rover following a collision with a Kia driven by a 28-year-old woman with a 9-month-old baby in the backseat. The driver suffered cuts to her knee, while a 46-year-old woman sitting in the passenger seat broke her wrist. The baby was uninjured, local police in Norfolk said Friday.

“People have played the accident down a bit – this could have been a quadruple fatal accident,” former royal protection officer Ken Wharfe tells PEOPLE. “Had his car stayed upright, surely the driver in the Kia would have died.”

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Wharfe describes Queen Elizabeth‘s husband of 71 years as a “difficult person to work with” because he is someone who likes to do things his own way. Despite having a team of bodyguards, none of them were with Philip at the time of the accident.

“To go on his own and not wear a seat belt and not take a bodyguard is crazy,” he says.

Prince Philip
Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty

Wharfe adds, “Had the bodyguard been there, with experience, this accident would never have happened. The bodyguard would have said, ‘Hang on, sir, watch the car.’ He would have blown a gasket, but he wouldn’t have hit the car.”

On doctor’s advice, Philip visited the hospital on Friday morning for a “precautionary check-up.”

“His Royal Highness had no injuries of concern. The Duke has returned to Sandringham,” a palace spokesperson said.

Emma Fairweather, who was sitting in the passenger seat, said in an interview with the Sunday Mirror that she was disappointed with the royal family because she had yet to receive an apology from Philip.

“I’m lucky to be alive and he hasn’t even said sorry,” Fairweather told the outlet.

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The Queen’s husband was seen driving in the area just two days after the crash, operating a replacement Land Rover on a public road without his seatbelt fastened.

According to friend and biographer Gyles Brandreth, Philip will reluctantly accept that he has to give up driving in public if he is advised to do so.

“He is a pragmatist and a realist and I’m sure he will accept that while possibly muttering under his breath,” Brandreth tells PEOPLE.