JFK Jr. burial at sea today
Cremated remains to be scattered from Navy ship
July 22, 1999
WOODS HOLE, Massachusetts (CNN) -- The cremated remains of John F. Kennedy Jr. are to be scattered in the waters off Martha's Vineyard at 9 a.m. Thursday in a ceremony attended by members of his family on the destroyer USS Briscoe, senior government officials told CNN.
Officials also said the Navy has given approval for the remains of his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, to be buried at sea, but it was not immediately clear if the women's family has elected to do so.
Following a five-day search for the plane crash victims, their bodies were recovered by divers Wednesday about seven miles off the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard.
They were under 116 feet of water near the point where Kennedy's Piper Saratoga II hit the water on Friday night.
Kennedy's burial at sea was contingent on the release of the bodies from the local medical examiner's office, which conducted autopsies Wednesday night.
As of Thursday morning, no information was available on the status of the autopsies, which were conducted by the Barnstable County medical examiner's office on Cape Cod.
The recovered bodies were brought aboard the Navy ship USS Grasp and later taken to the medical examiner's office, accompanied by Sen. Edward Kennedy and his sons Patrick and Edward Jr. -- John F. Kennedy Jr.'s uncle and two cousins.
The Kennedy family requested permission for burial at sea from a Navy ship; the request was approved by Defense Secretary William Cohen.
The Briscoe, which had been conducting training near Cape Cod, was sent to pick up family members for the burial ceremony. The home port of the guided missile destroyer is Norfolk, Virginia.
Pentagon officials tell CNN there are two bases for granting permission for a Naval burial at sea. First, there is a provision allowing for such burials for people providing "notable service or outstanding contributions to the United States."
Also, protocol allows sea burials of the children of decorated Navy veterans. The late President John F. Kennedy was a naval officer wounded and cited for heroism in World War II.
The Kennedy family also announced that a memorial Mass "to celebrate the lives of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and John F. Kennedy Jr." will take place at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in New York City at 11 a.m. EDT Friday.
The 500-seat church on the Upper East Side of Manhattan is where John Jr.'s late mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, worshipped. President Bill Clinton, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, plan to attend the service.
The family of the Bessette sisters also plans an invitation-only memorial service at 7 p.m. EDT Saturday at Christ Church, an Episcopal congregation in their hometown of Greenwich, Connecticut.
The service will include remembrances of Kennedy and his wife, but is meant especially for Lauren Bessette. "I think people have tended to forget that she is a person in her own right," said Mary Marks, parish secretary.
The women's mother, Ann Freeman, and stepfather, Dr. Richard Freeman, will attend, and Lauren's twin sister, Lisa Ann Bessette, is also expected to be there, Marks said.
New York's Irish community planned a public memorial service for Thursday night at Old St. Patrick's Cathedral in lower Manhattan.
NTSB: JFK Jr.'s plane shows no in-flight break-up or fire
Federal Aviation Administration
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