Coroner: Kennedy death accidental
Witnesses: Michael, 39, was playing ski football when he hit tree
January 1, 1998
Web posted at: 1:38 p.m. EST (1838 GMT)
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ASPEN, Colorado (CNN) -- The body of Michael Kennedy was being flown back to Massachusetts for burial following a fatal ski accident on a Colorado slope the day before, authorities said Thursday. The Pitkin County Coroner ruled that the death was accidental.
Coroner Tom Walsh said Kennedy died of massive head and neck
trauma after crashing into a tree at the Copper Bowl Ski Run
on Aspen Mountain. Walsh said he had released the body to
Michael Kennedy, 39, was a father of three and a son of the
late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. He was vacationing with several
family members, including his mother, Ethel, when the
Once considered a bright prospect for joining other Kennedys
in a political career, Michael suffered a fall from grace
last spring when it was alleged he had an affair with his
family's underage baby sitter.
Described as an excellent skier, Kennedy was on a slope for
those of intermediate skill Wednesday afternoon when he hit
the tree, resort and sheriff's officials said.
The body was taken overnight to Grand Junction, Colorado, for
transport to Massachusetts. An announcement on funeral
arrangements was pending.
Witnesses told CNN that the family members, including
Michael, were playing a form of ski football and were not
using ski poles as they skied at about 4:15 p.m. (6:15 p.m.
The Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol reportedly had warned the
family that such activity was too dangerous.
One witness, Couri Hay, told the New York Daily News he saw
the Kennedys playing football on skis, using a snow-packed
water bottle as a ball, when the accident happened. Hay said
Michael Kennedy went out for a pass, caught the ball and
slammed head-first into the tree.
Kennedy had been recording the game on video, skiing and
taping at the same time, Hay said.
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"There was blood all over the snow," he said. Hay added:
"Several of the Kennedys were on their knees saying the
Kennedy was skiing at the end of a clear, mild day on snow
described by other skiers as icy and very fast when he
crashed. Such conditions make it more difficult for a skier
The ski patrol said it began administering first aid within
four minutes of the accident, adding that Kennedy was brought
to the base of the mountain for more care.
He was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital, where he was "treated
in our emergency room for approximately one hour and was
pronounced dead at 5:50 p.m. (7:50 p.m. EST)," said hospital
spokeswoman Ginny Dyche.
"The Pitkin County Coroner's Office is conducting an
investigation and will have further information (Thursday)
morning," Dyche said.
Kennedy was the second of the 11 children born to the former
senator and his wife, Ethel, to die under tragic
circumstances. His brother David died in Florida in 1984 of
a drug overdose.
A statement released by Ethel Kennedy said she and her family
"are mourning the loss of beloved Michael."
"He was a special and wonderful father, son, brother, cousin
and friend, and his family would appreciate prayers during
this tragic time," the statement said.
"Michael's death is a terrible tragedy for the children, his
wife, Vicki, and the whole family," said a statement from his
brother, U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II. "We will miss him
An uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, said in a
statement that he and his wife were "heartbroken over
Michael's tragic loss. ... We loved him and we will miss him
very much." Michael managed the senator's 1994 re-election
Michael Kennedy was 10 years old when his father was
assassinated in 1968; his uncle, President John F. Kennedy,
was assassinated in 1963; another uncle, Joseph P. Kennedy
Jr., died in a plane crash during World War II. An aunt,
Kathleen Kennedy, also died in a plane crash.
Michael Kennedy was alleged to have had an affair with
a teen-age baby sitter
The Boston Globe reported in April that Kennedy's estranged
wife, Victoria Gifford Kennedy, daughter of sportscaster
Frank Gifford, caught the two in bed two years ago.
The subsequent furor was a factor in the withdrawal of Joseph
P. Kennedy II from the 1998 gubernatorial race in
Allegations that the baby sitter was 14 at the time the
affair began prompted Norfolk County District Attorney
Jeffrey Locke to investigate Kennedy. Sex with a minor
constitutes statutory rape in Massachusetts.
Locke ultimately dropped the investigation after the woman,
now a 19-year-old college student, and her family refused to
press charges. Since then, Kennedy had remained largely out
Kennedy said earlier this year he was undergoing treatment
for alcoholism. In a statement after the statutory rape
investigation was dropped, he said only that he made serious
While Kennedy had announced that he was separating from his
wife of 16 years, recent reports indicated that the couple
Kennedy headed Citizens Energy Corp., a nonprofit
organization that supplies heating fuel to the poor. Kennedy
and his wife Victoria, 40, had three children: Michael Jr.,
14, Kyle, 13, and Rory, 10.
Correspondent Bob Franken contributed to this report