Plane dropped at a dramatic 4,700 feet-per-minute
Bessettes' family remembers Kennedy and wife as 'true soulmates'
July 19, 1999
Radar data indicate the plane was at an altitude of 2,200 feet at 9:40:20
p.m. Friday. Fourteen seconds later, the plane had plummeted to 1,100 feet.
In the first statement from a member of the Kennedy family, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy says "We are filled with unspeakable grief and sadness by the loss of John and Carolyn, and of Lauren Bessette. John was a shining light in all our lives, and in the lives of the nation and the world that first came to know him when he was a little boy."
In the written statement, the Kennedys said they now rely on their faith in God at this difficult time, and thanked the men and women who have worked diligently since Saturday morning to find the three.
The statement concluded: "We pray that John, Carolyn and Lauren will find eternal rest, and that God's perpetual light will shine on them." (Read the statement.)
The family said they hoped to honor their daughter and her husband in death in the same "simple manner in which they chose to live their lives."
The statement, read by family friend Grant Stinchfield, said each of the three young people on the plane that went missing Friday was the "embodiment of love, accomplishment and passion for life."
The statement, issued by the sisters' stepfather and mother - - Dr. and Mrs. Richard Freeman -- and father -- William J. Bessette -- also included a plea for privacy.
Kennedy and his wife were "soulmates," the statement continued. And the family would "take solace in the thought that together they will comfort Lauren throughout eternity."
The statement also thanked everyone involved "in the exhaustive search for their beloved family members." (Read the complete statement.)
Divers emerged from the sea Monday afternoon after searching "target" locations off Martha's Vineyard in hopes of finding the wreckage of the plane piloted by Kennedy.
"They are now out of the water, but ... we have no results on their search," Capt. Jack Gallant, a Navy spokesman, told CNN.
The 10 divers from the Massachusetts State Police had been dispatched by boat from Menemsha Harbor on Martha's Vineyard to two debris sites identified by the high-tech NOAA survey ship Rude (pronounced 'Rudy').
Gallant also said the USS Grasp arrived at about 2:30 p.m. EDT in the "operational area" southwest of Gay Head on the southwestern tip of Martha's Vineyard.
He said the Grasp is not expected to join the search-and- recovery effort until Tuesday. The ship carries remote- controlled underwater vehicles, called ROVs and a crew of 32 divers trained in deep-water dives.
Grasp divers can delve to a depth of 190 feet. In addition, the ship can lift wreckage weighing up to 40 tons to the surface.
Also on Monday, a side-scanning sensor will be installed on the Willow, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Michael Labine. The sensor, shaped like a torpedo, can examine a swath of ocean bottom 600 feet wide.
According to officials, recovering the plane's wreckage could take up to two weeks.
NTSB Chairman Jim Hall said an accident investigation could take six to nine months. But he conceded that even a lengthy investigation may not reveal what happened to the plane.
Searchers said Sunday they were interested in "a couple of targets" spotted by sonar about 60 feet to 80 feet beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. But officials stressed the locations are "simply potential targets" and not necessarily plane wreckage.
The single-engine Piper Saratoga II HP, piloted by Kennedy, vanished on a flight from New Jersey to Martha's Vineyard.
Members of the Kennedy family on Monday attended a Catholic Mass at the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport on Cape Cod.
The prayers were said in the large white tent that was to have been the site of Rory Kennedy's wedding, now postponed indefinitely.
Senator Edward Kennedy left Hyannisport Monday and flew to Long Island to console Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, the senator's niece and the sister of John F. Kennedy Jr. Schlossberg had remained in seclusion at her Bridgehampton, New York. home with her husband, Edwin Schlossberg, and their three children since learning of her brother's disappearance.
Sources told CNN White House correspondent Chris Black that Caroline Kennedy and her uncle would take the lead in making decisions as the Kennedy family grapples with the loss of JFK Jr.
NTSB: JFK Jr.'s plane shows no in-flight break-up or fire
National Transportation Safety Board
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