JFK JR., and the Bessette sisters
John F. Kennedy, Jr.
November 25, 1960 – July 16, 1999“Well, there is no curse.”
January 7, 1966 – July 16, 1999“I’m not a priority.”
November 5, 1964 – July 16, 1999“Have you seen my luggage?”
I’ve been dreading this day. I’ve been staring at my JFKJr. file formonths. I just want it off my desk. Like yesterday. I tried to make this ascomprehensive as possible, though I know there are plenty of holes (two inparticular) in the story, and missing photos.
He and his wife Carolyn lived in New York, at 20North Moore Street, on the 10th floor.Lauren Bessette lived at 17 White Street.
John John had a broken ankle from a rollerblading accident a few weeks prior, andthe cast was just removed. He was still walking around on crutches. On Friday morningJuly 16, 1999, he had a doctor appointment at LenoxHill Hospital (thank you Stacy Weinstein and MarkFerrara for that shot).
John spent most of the day in business meetings. He went home, changed hisclothes (a white tank top, white slacks, and a backwards baseball cap), playedwith their dog Friday, then hopped in his white Hyundai convertible to theairport.
At around 8 p.m., he arrived at the EssexCounty Airport, where he would meet his wifeCarolyn and her sister Lauren, and together they would fly to Massachusetts for thewedding of Rory, one of Bobby and Ethel’s 400 children.
The plan was todrop Lauren inMartha’s Vineyard, and then continue on to Hyannis, where the wedding was totake place on Saturday the 17th. He got to the airport later than anticipated,around 8. John stopped and bought a bottle of water, 6 AA batteries, and a bananaat a nearbygas station.
Lauren worked for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter on Wall Street, as aninvestment banker. She had to work late that night, thus pushing the flightback, and no doubt pissing everybody off. Lauren and Carolyn arrived at the airport in a Lincoln Town Car. Carolyn was wearing black slacks and ablack blouse, and Lauren wore a beige dress (honestly.) that she’d worn towork that day.
They loaded the plane with their luggage (and a kayak), and taxied ontherunway.
Thank you to Findadeath.com friend Tina Jacobyfor the photos of the airport and gas station.
The last person to see them on the ground was another pilot named KyleBailey. Bailey was planning to fly to Martha’s Vineyard as well, but optedout, due to poor weather conditions.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board’s official report(Courtesy of Celebrity Collectables.com – thanks Ted!)
“The pilot received his private pilot certificate in April 1998. He didnot possess an instrument rating. Interviews and training records revealed thatthe pilot had accumulated about 300 hours of total flight experience. Thesehours did not include the recent experience gained in the accident airplane.
On July 16, 1999, about 2141 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32-R301,Saratoga II, N9253N, was destroyed during a collision with water approximately 7miles south-west of Gay Head, Martha’s Vineyard, MA. The certificated pilotand two passengers were fatally injured.
The flight departed Essex County Airport at 2038. The pilot informed the DCWtower controller that he would be proceeding north of the Teterboro Airport, andthen eastbound. There is no record of any further communications between thepilot and the air traffic control system.”
About 150 miles from the crash site, an American Airlines crew saw the plane,and all looked hunky dory. Hello-hooooo!
A review of the radar data revealed that the plane began a descent from 5,600feet about 34 miles from the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. The airspeed was 160knots and the rate of descent was about 700 feet per minute. About 2,300feet, the plane began a turn to the right and climbed back to 2,600 feet. Itremained there for one minute while tracking on a southeasterly heading. Theplane then started a descent of about 700 feet per minute and a left turn backto the east. Thirty seconds into the maneuver, the plane started another turn tothe right and entered a rate of descent that exceeded 4,700 feet per minute(very very fast.) The altitude of the last recorded target was 1,100 feet.
Someone claiming to be a Navy SEAL called the Howard Stern show, and said,”they died instantly when the plane hit the water at an 80 degreeangle.” He added, “highly classified photos of the wreckage and thethree bodies were taken by the Navy during the extraction and retrieval mission.The main cabin was crumpled, ripped and torn, resembling an empty, crushedBudweiser (Carolyn’s favorite) can. At no time did any of the bodies become decapitated ordismembered in any way.” He adds, “One of the women was thrown throughthe metal wall of the plane by the incredible impact. Her body was found about25 feet from the main cabin section. The other woman was found crumpled up inthe rear of the plane’s cabin.”
Meanwhile at the Kennedy compound, the rehearsal dinner for the wedding wasunderway. John and Carolyn were due to arrive just after 9 p,m. By 10:00, a couplewhich were at the airport to meet them became concerned. Airport employee AdamBudd phoned the Federal Aviation Administration and asked them to trace it –but no action was taken (Budd hadn’t made it clear that the plane wasoverdue). By midnight, the Kennedys were worried and phoned the Coast Guard.By 8 a.m. the next day, dozens of aircraft and ships searched for the plane. TheKennedys had a big mass on their front porch, as you do.
By the middle of Saturday afternoon, apiece of luggage with Lauren’s tag on it had washed up.
They continuedsearching (and who wasn’t glued to the dullest CNN broadcast in history)throughout the weekend. By Sunday, they stopped looking for survivors, and thesearch became a “recovery” rather than a “rescue.” Officialsat Arlington National Cemetery (at their own initiative) measured the plot ofJFK Sr., in case John would be buried there. “There were measurements takenyesterday… to be prepared for any future inquiry from the family.” TheKennedys took down the big tent in Hyannis.
Back to the accident report:
On Tuesday July 20, 1999 about at 22:40, the plane was located in 116 feet ofwater, about ½ of a mile north of the 1,100-foot radar target position. Theengine, propeller hub and blades, and entire tail section were recovered. Theentire span of both main wings’ spars was also recovered. Additionally, about75 percent of the fuselage/cabin area, 80 percent of the left wing structure,and 60% of the right wing were recovered. The recovered wreckage was taken froman area that was about 120 feet long.
At 4:30 p.m., the bodies were brought to the surface. I don’t think this isreal, but there is one photo making the rounds that is supposed to be of JohnKennedy being pulled from the water. I warn you, this is not a pretty picture,and I really do doubt its authenticity. Anyway, (WARNING: dead pic) hereis the photograph.
March, 2002 – This in from a Findadeath.com friend:The photo purported to be of John Kennedy appears to be of someone who has been in the water substantially longer than Kennedy was. I am a detective in Boulder County, Colorado and have investigated over 250 deaths, including submersion deaths, and this photo is not of someone who is been in cold water for a relatively short period of time.
Findadeath.comfriend Tara Akinlose sends us this info: “I heard a different storyabout them on a message board I frequent. A woman who went to a wedding onMartha’s Vineyard a few weeks after the crash, posted something she heard fromanother wedding guest who happened to be part of the recovery team. Shesaid that they didn’t find 3 bodies, but only two: John and Carolyn, butno Lauren. Furthermore, Carolyn was cut off from the hips down.
I believe this story because all three werecremated and buried at sea, not a normal Kennedy tradition. I’m sure I wasnot the only one surprised at that. I think the burial at sea was definitelybecause they didn’t find Lauren, and wanted to have a ceremony for her, butwithout causing a lot of publicity.”
Interesting point Tara, and completelybelievable. But I would think that parts of Lauren would have washed up bynow. Maybe not, but they weren’t that far from shore.
March 2002 – Findadeath.com Elizabeth adds her two cents: Just for your information, it is possible that remains do not wash up due tothe fact that fish life will eat corpses as food, so it is quite possible that Lauren’s body was never recovered and was used for lunch or dinner.Read your biology books! Point taken – S
The Kennedys were notified, and Uncle Teddy hopped on board a boat, toview the remains, for identification. Thebodies were then taken to a hospital for the postmortem.
Later that evening, they were taken to the Dumbury Crematory in Duxbury,Massachusetts, and cremated.
Of course, their homein Manhattan became a shrine.
Meanwhile, two flatbed trucks under police escort transported the wreckage ofthe plane to the Coast Guard hangar, in Otis Air Force Base, Mass.
Preliminary examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of an in-flightstructural failure or fire. They also found that the landing gear was fullyretracted, and the propeller was indeed operating at the time of the crash. Thatruled out mechanical failure.
Pilots who had flown the same route were interviewed after the accident.These pilots reported that the in-flight visibility over the water wassignificantly reduced.
The next morning, Thursday the 23rd, the Kennedy family and theBessette family had a private service aboard the USSBriscoe, and had the ashes of their loved ones dumpedinto the sea.
Lauren went first, as usual, followed by Carolyn and then John.Another dull day on CNN, but significantly more interesting. A Navy band played EternalFather, Abide with Me, and For All the Saints.Then they threw 3 wreaths of flowers into the water. I wonder if thoseshowed up on eBay. I do know that somebody was auctioning water that was scoopedup that day, that could have contained their cremains. That was ridiculous, andvery inventive.
The next day, the Kennedys had a memorial service in New York, at St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Church(thanks Tom) which is on 89th Street between Madison and Park Avenues.That’s where Jackie used to pray. The guests included MuhammadAli, the Clintons, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria, Jackie’s old flame Maurice,and Diane Sawyer.
The Bessettes threw their own shindig in Greenwich, Connecticut, at theChrist Church. This one focused on Lauren more. A few Kennedys showed up, butthat was about it.
In February of 2000, the Kennedy family settled out of court with theBessettes, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit. Who didn’t see that onecoming? The Kennedys coughed up 10 Mil.
Oh yeah, Rory finally got married, in Greece. Two weeks after the crash.
Trivia: John smoked a single cigarette every day, and had a shamrock tattooon his buttock.
March 2002 in my mailbox: I came to view your site at the advice of a friend. I browsed around, and saw your JFK Jr. page. There was one thing on the page that is incorrect. The shamrock tattoo was not on JFK Jr’sbooty, it was on his shoulder.
Another thing is that I believe that Rory Kennedy was married two MONTHS after the crash, not two weeks.
June 2002 – don’t know if this is true, but my good pal KK sends methis gossip: The Day John Died revealed that JFK Jr. was into porn flicks–so much sothat he hung onto them for re-viewing and had to pay close to $1,000 in late fees to one video store for all his overdue adult videos.
More: He never saw the movie JFK. God, could you imagine? Hewould have had to have had that conversation with his mother about it.”Mom, remember when you scooped dad’s brains up off the trunk of thatlimo in Dallas? Where did the bullet come from?” That is an amazingperspective that we will never ever know. Unless Caroline spills it. Also,wouldn’t you kill to have Jackie’s pink suit? I think it’s probablythe most famous piece of clothing in the world. Remember when Daryl Hannahwore a similar costume on the cover ofSPYmagazine, back when she was dating JFK Jr? Imagine Jackie hearingabout that for the first time.
Added May 2009 from Findadeath friendPam: The suit was donated to the National Archives sometime betweenNovember 22, 1963 (assassination date) and July 1964. Nobody – not evenanyone at the Archives – knows who donated it or where it came from. It arrivedat the Archives via mail in a plain brown box with only a postal zonereturn address. (The most popular belief is that it was donated by Jackie’smother.) Within the last 10 years, Caroline Kennedy signed a “deed ofgift”, essentially “donating” the suit officially to theArchives, but with a stipulation that the suit be withheldfrom public view for 100 years. (infuriating!) So, the suit won’t be on view until 2063.This was done to protect the family’s privacy. (Iwish this weren’t true, it’s our history too!)
Right now the suit is packed in a custom storage container in a secure warehousewith an extremely controlled climate. The facility is windowless, thetemperature and humidity are controlled, and in the current conditions the suitshould stay preserved indefinitely. The box contains the pink jacket and skirt,blue blouse, blue purse, shoes, and even Jackie’s stockings. The white glovesand the matching pink pillbox hat didn’t come with the package, and thewhereabouts of those items is unknown.
Where did I get all this information? [I know someone that] workedinside the warehouse where the suit is housed. [This person] has seen the suit onceand only once, when it was removed from the original packaging and placed into a custom-builtacid-free storage container. Most Archives employees have never even seen it.
Oh, and for all the death hags like me – no, the suit has never been cleaned.
Fascinating, thank you, Pam.
Mark Langlois sends this:
Carly Simon once mentioned on the Howard Sternshow, that she was friends with Jackie O, and asked her, “Have you seen JFK(the film) yet?” Jackie paused and simply said, “no.” Carly realized, and was appropriately mortified. Jackie let it pass.