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Answers sought from Kennedy, Bessette autopsies

Kennedy remains
The bodies of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife and sister-in-law were loaded into two white vans and taken to the Medical Examiner's Office in Pocasset, Massachusetts

Remembering John F. Kennedy Jr.

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Kennedy tragedy

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July 21, 1999
Web posted at: 11:52 p.m. EDT (0352 GMT)

From Correspondent Dr. Steve Salvatore

(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
July 30, 1999
At candlelight service for Lauren Bessette, mourners also pray for sister, Kennedy
July 25, 1999
Investigators to examine wreckage of Kennedy plane
July 26, 1999
Thousands turn out in Washington for Kennedy-Bessette memorial
July 25, 1999
Wreckage of Kennedy plane delivered to Cape Cod
July 24, 1999
Ted Kennedy pays tribute to his nephew
July 23, 1999
JFK Jr. remembered as legend with sense of humor
July 23, 1999
Memorial service attendees
July 23, 1999
Husband of '1,000 days' and 'perfect soul-mate' memorialized
July 23, 1999
Seeing the century through values and ambitions of Kennedys
July 22, 1999

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  • Aquinnah Town Government
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