BOSTON, MA – With Senator Ted Kennedy’s passing, will we ever know the truth of the accident that killed Mary Jo Kopechne?
Ted Kennedy created a successful career in politics, but was forever haunted by the secrets of the fatal accident in 1969 that killed 28 year old Mary Jo Kopechne. It is believed her death led to his decision to never run for President.
On July 18, 1969, Kennedy attended a party on a small Massachusetts island called Chappaquiddick. The party was a reunion of six “boiler room girls”, who had worked on Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign the year before. Shortly before midnight, Ted Kennedy decided to head out and Kopechne asked for a ride back to her hotel.
The events following remain unclear. According to Kennedy, they took a wrong turn onto an unlit dirt road and accidentally drove off the Dike Bridge into Poucha Pond. He was able to escape the sinking car and swim to shore. Kennedy claims he swam down numerous times to try and reach Kopechne but never found her. He soon returned on foot to where the party was being held. He did not stop at the four houses along the way to call for help.
Kennedy and two of the male guests headed back to the site of the accident to try and find Kopechne, but failed. The two men returned to the house believing Kennedy would report the accident, but he swam across the channel, returned to his hotel and fell asleep.
The following morning, two fishermen discovered the car. The police sent a diver down, who discovered Kopechne’s corpse in the flooded car. After seeing that the car had been found, Kennedy reported to the police station where he was charged with leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury. He later pleaded guilty.
He held a televised statement that evening apologizing to the citizens of Massachusetts and asking them to decide if he should resign. Viewers responded heavily in his favor, and Kennedy won re-election the following year with 62%.
Despite the fact that some blood was found on Kopechne’s skirt and in her nose, and that an inquest concluded that Kennedy had intentionally turned onto Dike Road and away from the ferry they had been supposedly trying to catch, Kopechne’s parents fought against an exhumation of her corpse for an official autopsy,
The Kopechnes also never brought a suit against Kennedy, for which they explained, “We figured that people would think we were looking for blood money.” However, they did receive $90,904 from the Senator personally and $50,000 from his insurance company following the accident.
Did something else happen inside the car before it went off the bridge? Was there improper conduct between Kopechne and the then-married Kennedy? Why did it take him until the following morning to report?
The diver, John Farrar, had found her body in a way which indicated she survived for some time in an air bubble in the car. He later stated, “Had I received a call within five to ten minutes of the accident occurring, and was able, as I was the following morning, to be at the victim’s side within twenty-five minutes of receiving the call, in such event there is a strong possibility that she would have been alive on removal from the submerged car.”
Do you think Kennedy was responsible for her death?