Searchers find suitcase with Kennedy in-law's name, other debris
July 17, 1999
BOSTON (CNN) -- Searchers on Martha's Vineyard have found a piece of luggage belonging to the sister-in-law of John F. Kennedy Jr., whose missing plane has been the object of a day-long search off the East Coast.
Coast Guard Capt. W. Russell Webster told CNN Saturday a suitcase was found on Philbin Beach near Aquinnah, Massachusetts. The suitcase had a tag on it bearing the name Lauren Bessette, Kennedy's sister-in-law and a passenger on the missing plane.
In addition, a Coast Guard utility boat found an aircraft headrest about 200 yards off the beach, Webster said.
The report -- which Pentagon officials aiding the effort could not immediately confirm -- came as searchers from five states combed the waters between Long Island and Martha's Vineyard Saturday.
The son of the assassinated president, Kennedy was joined on the flight by his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and her sister. Kennedy, the founder of the politics and culture magazine George, and his wife were on their way to the wedding of Kennedy's cousin on Cape Cod.
The Kennedy family notified the Federal Aviation Administration that the plane had not arrived at the Massachusetts resort as expected Friday night, agency officials said.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Todd Bergen said the single-engine, six-passenger plane took off just after 8:30 p.m. EDT from Fairfield, New Jersey, and was expected on Martha's Vineyard before continuing to Hyannisport, on Cape Cod. Bergen said the plane was last heard from about an hour after takeoff as it made its final approach into Martha's Vineyard.
Several agencies -- including the U.S. Coast Guard, the Transportation and Defense departments and the FAA -- were conducting the search off Montauk Point on Long Island and off the Massachusetts shore.
Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Dennis Hall said the search was focused on an area five to 10 miles off Aquinnah, formerly Gay Head, on the western tip of Martha's Vineyard.
The overall search effort was being coordinated by the Air Force's Joint Rescue Coordination Center at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, Air Force public affairs officer Sandy Troeber said.
Troeber said that searchers heard what they thought was a locator beacon off Long Island early Saturday, but found nothing when they arrived on the site where the beacon appeared to originate. Officials now do not believe the beacon was connected with the missing Kennedy plane.
Weather conditions along what would have been the plane's flight path were quiet overnight, with light clouds, light wind and some haze. Conditions remained calm Saturday morning.
The 38-year-old Kennedy, who owned the missing Piper PA-32 Saratoga, did not file a flight plan, but was not required to do so. He earned his pilot's license last year.
Wedding postponed as search continues
Kennedy was to drop Lauren Bessette on Martha's Vineyard and then continue with his wife to Hyannisport, on Cape Cod, a family wedding.
Rory Elizabeth Kennedy, the youngest child of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, was to marry book publisher Mark Bailey on Saturday evening in Hyannisport. The wedding has now been postponed, Kennedy family friend Rowland Evans told CNN.
Evans said that family members were gathering at the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport.
"This is a real tragedy," he said. "The Kennedys have a habit of gathering around in an extraordinary way in a situation like this.
Kennedy and his wife married in 1996 on Georgia's Cumberland Island.
Kennedy has eschewed politics, opting instead for the law before launching George in 1995.
After attending Brown University, he graduated New York University Law School, becoming an assistant district attorney in the Manhattan prosecutor's office.
Luggage found in search for missing Kennedy plane
The New Piper Aircraft, Inc. "Saratoga II TC"
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