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Kennedy's body arrives home in Massachusetts

Michael Kennedy's body arrives in Massachusetts
U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II helps carry his brother's body off the jet
In this story: January 1, 1998
Web posted at: 6:38 p.m. EST (2338 GMT)

HYANNIS, Massachusetts (CNN) -- The body of Michael Kennedy arrived home in Massachusetts Thursday afternoon, a day after he was killed in a skiing accident in Colorado.

A small jet carrying Kennedy's body landed about 3 p.m. at Barnstable Municipal Airport in Hyannis, near the Kennedy family's Cape Cod compound. On hand to meet the plane were Kennedy's brother, U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy II, and his uncle, U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Joseph Kennedy and other family members helped lift the body, encased in a gray body bag, from the aircraft to a waiting vehicle.

A L S O :

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The new Kennedy generation: Service, ambition, bad behavior

A short time later, Michael's mother, Ethel Kennedy, drove up to the family compound in Hyannis Port.

Coroner rules death an accident

In Aspen, Pitkin County Deputy Coroner Tom Walsh said Kennedy's death has been ruled an accident. The cause of death was massive neck and head trauma, resulting from a collision with a tree.

Witnesses to the accident say Kennedy and other members of his family were playing football while skiing down an intermediate slope on Aspen Mountain, in an area where snow conditions were reportedly icy. Such conditions make it more difficult for a skier to stop.

Sign on a ski slope

A former resort employee, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said the Kennedys had been warned in the past by the ski patrol that they should not mix football and skiing.

One witness, Couri Hay, told the New York Daily News that Kennedy went out for a pass, caught the ball and slammed head first into a tree.

"There was blood all over the snow," Hay said. "Several of the Kennedys were on their knees saying the Lord's Prayer."

Dr. William Rodman, the doctor who later treated Kennedy at Aspen Valley Hospital, said some family members worked to revive Kennedy at the scene.

Doctor declines to release toxicology report

Rodman said toxicology tests had been performed on Kennedy that would indicate whether alcohol or drugs could have been a factor in his death. But citing the family's request for privacy, Rodman declined to provide any details as to what those tests showed.

Kennedy had announced earlier this year that he was undergoing treatment for alcoholism.

The ski patrol said it began administering first aid within four minutes of the accident and then brought Kennedy to the base of the mountain for more care. He was then transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

"As you would expect, (family members) were overwhelmed with grief," Rodman said, describing the scene at the hospital. A Roman Catholic priest was called in to give Kennedy the church's last rites.

His body was then taken to Grand Junction, Colorado, where an autopsy was performed before it was released to the family to be taken back to Massachusetts.

Rising Kennedy star tarnished by scandal

Michael Kennedy
Michael Kennedy

Michael Kennedy, 39, was a son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1968 when Michael was just 10 years old. He headed the Citizens Energy Corporation, a nonprofit organization the supplies heating fuel to the poor.

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.

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.

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.

But 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 of sight.

However, the subsequent furor was a factor in the withdrawal of Joseph Kennedy from the 1998 gubernatorial race in Massachusetts -- a rare setback for the powerful political clan.

Father of 3 children

Amid the scandal, Michael and Victoria Kennedy had announced they were separating, but recent reports said they had reconciled. They had three children: Michael Jr., 14, Kyle, 13, and Rory, 10.

Michael Kennedy is the second of the 11 children born to Robert and Ethel Kennedy 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, Joseph. "We will miss him dearly."

Sen. Edward Kennedy 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 campaign.


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