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All three bodies from Kennedy plane crash located

Sen. Edward Kennedy stands on the deck of a U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat while motoring to the USS Grasp

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Remembering John F. Kennedy Jr.

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July 21, 1999
Web posted at: 4:10 p.m. EDT (2010 GMT)

In this story:

Ted Kennedy visits scene

Murky waters

Families, White House notified

Co-pilot concerns?


AQUINNAH, Massachusetts (CNN) -- The bodies of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and her sister, Lauren Bessette, have been found off Martha's Vineyard. The news comes from the National Transportation Safety Board.

Divers operating under difficult conditions were attempting Wednesday to recover the body of John F. Kennedy Jr., which was found on the ocean floor off Martha's Vineyard.

His remains, first spotted overnight by a robotic underwater camera, were near a large piece of wreckage from the plane he was piloting to the Massachusetts island last Friday.

Ted Kennedy visits scene

John F. Kennedy Jr.'s uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, was taken to the recovery scene at sea. He left the Kennedy family compound in Hyannisport, on Cape Cod, aboard a Coast Guard helicopter that took him to Martha's Vineyard. The senator completed the journey aboard a Coast Guard vessel.

He was accompanied by two of his sons -- Patrick, a Rhode Island congressman, and Edward Kennedy, Jr.

Recovery team leaders predicted it would take about three or four hours to search the immediate area around the wreckage, a senior government official in Washington told CNN. Divers entered the water about 10:30 a.m.

Once the body is recovered and brought to shore, an autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.

Murky waters

A large portion of the plane's fuselage was found about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, the statement said. An NTSB source told CNN that Kennedy's body was found nearby about two hours later.

The sightings were made by an underwater camera on a small, unmanned submarine called an ROV (remote operated vehicle) from the USS Grasp, a Navy salvage vessel.

"The wreckage was found less than a half-mile from the prime point derived from radar data analysis," the joint statement said.

Sen. Edward Kennedy is taken by a Coast Guard helicopter to the scene where John Kennedy Jr.'s body was found  

The ocean depth in that area of the Atlantic Ocean is about 115 feet. Visibility is only about six to eight feet. The water temperature is about 52 degrees Fahrenheit. Dives are limited to about 15 minutes.

Plans call for any body or bodies taken from the water to be brought to the surface before any of pieces of the plane are lifted onto the Grasp.

Wreckage was to be taken to a hangar at Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod, which is being used as a command base for the search and recovery operation.

Families, White House notified

The White House was notified about 2:30 a.m.

Aides decided not to wake up President Clinton, who was informed of developments at 9:15 a.m., White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said.

The families of the victims also were informed quickly.

The Kennedy family is considering a memorial service -- possibly in New York -- for John Jr. and his wife, but no details have been announced.

kennedy house
Extra security is in place at the Kennedy estate at Hyannisport, Massachusetts  

The grim underwater discovery came as searchers using ship-based sonar equipment combed through waters off Martha's Vineyard, looking for wreckage of the single-engine Piper Saratoga II.

They focused on the "splashpoint" -- an area about seven miles from the southwestern tip of the Massachusetts island, where the plane is believed to have crashed into the ocean Friday night.

Using sonar readings, divers from Grasp and the Massachusetts State police had investigated several suspected wreckage sites this week before finding the plane and Kennedy's body.

Co-pilot concerns?

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Kennedy told acquaintances he was happy to fly solo after having a cast removed from his ankle the day before last Friday's flight.

Kennedy reportedly had felt the need to fly with a co-pilot since breaking his ankle in a paraglider crash three weeks earlier.

The Toronto Star reported Sunday that Kennedy used a co-pilot when he flew to the Canadian city earlier this month, because he didn't feel safe flying with his left ankle in a cast.

Arthur Marx, a Martha's Vineyard flight instructor who had given lessons to Kennedy, told CNN the relatively inexperienced pilot loved to fly, and was cautious in the air. "The last time I flew with him was a year ago, and I definitely did not see the kind of person who took unnecessary risks."

"If anything, (he was) underconfident," said Marx.

Correspondents Carl Rochelle, Martin Savidge, Mike Boettcher, Bob Franken, John King and Frank Buckley contributed to this report.

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

Federal Aviation Administration
National Transportation Safety Board
The New Piper Aircraft, Inc. "Saratoga II TC"
  • The New Piper Aircraft, Inc. "Piper Press Releases"
United States Coast Guard
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • NOAA ship Whiting joins the Rude in search for Kennedy plane
  • NOAA Ship RUDE
  • Side Scan Sonar and Multibeam Sonar
Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce
  • Martha's Vineyard Beaches
  • Aquinnah Town Government
Massachusetts Community Profiles - Gay Head (Aquinnah)
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