On this day in history, July 21, 1999, Navy divers recovered the bodies of John F. Kennedy Jr., 38, his wife Carolyn Bessett Kennedy, 33, and her sister Lauren Bessett, 34, at 10:30 a.m. in 116 feet of water in the Atlantic Ocean. According to history.com.
After searching the ocean floor for nearly 18 hours, the recovery team discovered Kennedy’s body in the cockpit.
The same source said that the bodies of the women were found among the twisted debris.
U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Richard Larrabee said at the time that the three were still strapped into their seats.
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“The bodies were pulled from the ocean floor at approximately 4:30 p.m.,” Larrabee reported the same source.
An autopsy concluded that all three passengers died on impact.
History.com noted that investigators studying the wreckage of Kennedy’s Piper Saratoga found no problems with its mechanical or navigation systems.
“In its final report issued in 2000, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the crash was caused by an inexperienced pilot who became lost in the darkness and lost control,” the same source reported.
“The crash was caused by an inexperienced pilot who got lost in the darkness and lost control.”
At the time, it was reported that one of Kennedy’s instructors told the National Transportation Safety Board that he had offered to fly with Kennedy on the evening of the crash — but Kennedy declined, choosing to fly alone instead.
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According to the New York Times, the report also stated that fog may have obscured the horizon on the evening of the flight, possibly causing Kennedy to become disoriented.
On July 16, 1999, Kennedy, his wife Carolyn and his sister Lauren were flying to Haynesport, Massachusetts with a stop at Martha’s Vineyard that evening to drop off Lauren Bessett.
From there, Kennedy and his wife were to attend the wedding of Rory Kennedy, Kennedy’s cousin, at the Kennedy compound on Cape Cod’s Hyannis Port, Biography.com reported.
Kennedy and Lauren Bessett, a Morgan Stanley vice president, flew from Manhattan to New Jersey’s Essex County Airport, where Kennedy’s Piper Saratoga Light plane was waiting just after 6:30 p.m.
The same source noted that Caroline Bassett arrived separately after 8 p.m.
The Federal Aviation Administration cleared the plane for takeoff at 8:38 p.m.
According to Biography.com, Kennedy checked in with the control tower at Martha’s Vineyard, but was reported missing after the plane did not arrive on time.
On July 22, 1999, the three were cremated at sea during a ceremony aboard the Navy destroyer USS Briscoe.