The Chappaquiddick incident

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August 18, 2012 by dontbringlulubook

July 18, 1969, it was late that night and after a party on Chappaquiddick Island when Senator Ted Kennedy from Massachusetts drove his car off a bridge and his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, died.

Events at Chappaquiddick Island gained international attention when the dead body of Mary Jo Kopechne was discovered inside an overturned car in a channel on the island. The car belonged to Senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy, who did not report the midnight incident to police authorities until the following morning.Kopechne’s body was recovered from the submerged car, and Kennedy entered a plea of guilty to a charge of “leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury”. He received a sentence of two months in jail, which was suspended.

The day after the accident two amateur fishermen had seen the submerged car in the water and notified the authorities just after 8am. 

Edgartown Police Chief James Arena arrived at the scene about 10 or 15 minutes later.  After attempting unsuccessfully to examine the interior of the submerged vehicle. Arena summoned a professional diver  John Farrar, who discovered Kopechne’s body and extricated it from the vehicle within ten minutes. Police checked the car’s licence plate and saw that it was registered to Kennedy. When Kennedy, still at the payphone by the ferry crossing, heard that the body had been discovered, he crossed back to Edgartown and went to the police station; Gargan simultaneously went to the hotel where the “boiler room girls” were staying to inform them about the incident.

At 10 am Kennedy entered the police station in Edgartown, made a couple of telephone calls, then dictated a statement to his aide Paul Markham, which was then given to the police. The statement was as follows:

On July 18, 1969, at approximately 11:15 p.m. in Chappaquiddick, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, I was driving my car on Main Street on my way to get the ferry back to Edgartown. I was unfamiliar with the road and turned right onto Dike Road, instead of bearing hard left on Main Street. After proceeding for approximately one-half mile on Dike Road I descended a hill and came upon a narrow bridge. The car went off the side of the bridge. There was one passenger with me, one Miss Mary [Kopechne], a former secretary of my brother Sen. Robert Kennedy. The car turned over and sank into the water and landed with the roof resting on the bottom. I attempted to open the door and the window of the car but have no recollection of how I got out of the car. I came to the surface and then repeatedly dove down to the car in an attempt to see if the passenger was still in the car. I was unsuccessful in the attempt. I was exhausted and in a state of shock. I recall walking back to where my friends were eating. There was a car parked in front of the cottage and I climbed into the backseat. I then asked for someone to bring me back to Edgartown. I remember walking around for a period and then going back to my hotel room. When I fully realized what had happened this morning, I immediately contacted the police.

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