Answers sought from Kennedy, Bessette autopsies
July 21, 1999
(CNN) -- As soon as the bodies of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife and her sister were recovered from the waters off of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, and brought to shore Wednesday, they were placed in white medical examiner trucks and taken to the Medical Examiner's Office in Pocasset.
Massachusetts law requires that autopsies be conducted on accident victims, a process that usually takes 12 to 24 hours.
Doctors will determine the cause of death for John and Carolyn Kennedy and her sister, Lauren Bessette. That discovery might shed light on what went wrong when the plane piloted by Kennedy plunged into the ocean Friday night.
"I think it is important, because young people die of disease just like old people, and it can be very sudden," said Dr. Alan Schiller of Mt. Sinai Hospital. "They can have cerebral problems like an aneurysm or hemorrhaging from the brain. They can have cardiac problems that predispose them to sudden death."
Doctors look at every possible contributing factor, like infections, noxious fumes and toxins which could contribute to disorientation.
"We can also examine extraneous causes, such as alcohol levels, toxicology for drugs and a whole host of other things," Schiller said.
The medical examiner's office will also review old medical records, X-rays and laboratory reports to search for pre-existing medical conditions that might have contributed to the accident.
Because the plane crash was an unwitnessed transportation accident, an autopsy is usually mandatory. But experts say autopsies do more than just fulfill medical legal requirements.
Autopsies bring closure, Schiller said, and provide lessons that can prevent similar tragedies in the future.
NTSB: JFK Jr.'s plane shows no in-flight break-up or fire
Federal Aviation Administration
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