Kennedy dynasty faces a reckoning as controversial film hits theaters

The Kennedy dynasty faced a reckoning Friday, when a film hit theaters resurrecting the shocking details surrounding a late-night deadly car crash at Chappaquiddick Island that has haunted America’s most powerful political family since 1969. “Chappaquiddick” opened in movie theaters across the U.S., drawing all eyes to the Kennedy family as the film renews questions about the controversial incident at the island off Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts in 1969. After the assassinations of both his brothers, former Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., was slated to carry the family’s political aspirations, even mulling a run for president of the United States. But the movie tells the story of the incident that stopped that potential campaign in its tracks—depicting the involvement of Kennedy, then 37, in the fatal July 19, 1969 car accident that claimed the life of a young campaign strategist, Mary Jo Kopechne. At approximately 12:50 a.m., Kennedy and Kopechne, 28, were driving back from a party hosted by a cousin of Kennedy on Martha’s Vineyard following the Edgartown Regatta, in which Kennedy had sailed. Kennedy’s car plunged 10 feet off of a bridge and into a pond, killing Kopechne and giving Kennedy “a slight concussion.” Kennedy told police that he was “unfamiliar with the road,” came up to a narrow bridge, and said the car “went off the side of the bridge.” According to a description from a 1969 New York Times article, the road approaching the bridge is “narrow” with “no warning sign on the approach.” Kennedy also told police that he had “no recollection” of how he got out of the car, which sank, landing with the roof resting on the bottom. Kennedy said that he “came to the surface and repeatedly dove down to the car in an attempt to see if the passenger was still in the car,” noting he was “unsuccessful in the attempt.” Police said there was “apparently no criminal negligence involved in the accident itself.” The accident, though, was not reported by Kennedy, but rather by a mother of a little boy who saw the overturned car in the pond when he was fishing. Kennedy later described his failure to report the incident to police for 10 hours as “indefensible.”

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