A Profile in Cowardice
Ted Kennedy, the accident, and the cover-up


Chapter 2 - The Accident

"Kennedy was slipping out of control toward some unavoidable crackup."
- John Lindsay of Newsweek -

Map of Chappaquiddick Island

Map of Chappaquiddick Island ~ [ View Close-up ]

Dike Bridge

Senator Kennedy

Mary Jo Kopechne

The Dike Bridge at Chappaquiddick

Senator Ted Kennedy

Mary Jo Kopechne

The following is the written statement given by Ted Kennedy to Police Chief Dominick Arena on the morning of July19,1969. Throughout the legal proceedings, the Senator stuck to this version of events despite contradictory evidence and witness testimony. Perhaps as important as the inaccuracies within the statement is the fact that so many important details are conspicuously absent.
"On July 18, 1969, at approximately 11:15 PM in Chappaquiddick, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, I was driving my car on Main Street on my way to get the ferry back to Edgartown. I was unfamiliar with the road and turned right onto Dike Road, instead of bearing hard left on Main Street. After proceeding for approximately one-half mile on Dike Road I descended a hill and came upon a narrow bridge. The car went off the side of the bridge. There was one passenger with me, one Miss Mary ________( There was a blank space here because Kennedy was not sure of the spelling of the dead girl's last name, and instead offered a rough phonetic approximation ), a former secretary of my brother Sen. Robert Kennedy. The car turned over and sank into the water and landed with the roof resting on the bottom. I attempted to open the door and the window of the car but have no recollection of how I got out of the car. I came to the surface and then repeatedly dove down to the car in an attempt to see if the passenger was still in the car. I was unsuccessful in the attempt. I was exhausted and in a state of shock. I recall walking back to where my friends were eating. There was a car parked in front of the cottage and I climbed into the back seat. I then asked for someone to bring me back to Edgartown. I remember walking around for a period of time and then going back to my hotel room. When I fully realized what had happened this morning, I immediately contacted the police."
~ from Inquest Exhibit # 2

- Senator Kennedy claimed in his statement that he was unfamiliar with the road.
- At the inquest, however, Judge Boyle concluded that:
"Earlier on July 18, he [Kennedy] had been driven over Chappaquiddick Road three times, and over Dike Road and Dike Bridge twice. Kopechne had been driven over Chappaquiddick Road five times and over Dike Road and Dike Bridge twice".

Timeline Continued
( excerpts from Senatorial Privilege by Leo Damore )


Friday July 18, 1969

12:30 AM

- Deputy Sheriff Christopher "Huck" Look had worked as a special police officer at the Edgartown Yacht Club Regatta dance from 8:00 PM to 12:30 AM on Friday night. After work, he was brought to Chappaquiddick in the yacht club's launch. Look got into his car parked at the ferry landing and headed home.

Saturday July 19, 1969

12:40 AM

- As Look drove along Chappaquiddick Road ( referred to as "Main St." in Kennedy's statement ), he had seen the headlights of a car coming toward him near the curve at the intersection with Dike Road. "Knowing the road, I slowed down, because there's a sharp corner that people will cut too close," Look said. "I wanted to make sure I didn't get sideswiped." Look came almost to a complete stop. A black sedan passed in front of his headlights.
- Huck Look told Chief Arena that he was "positive there was a man driving, and a woman next to him." He thought there may have been someone else in the back seat, but he wasn't sure.
- Note: Rosemary Keough's handbag was later found in the accident vehicle. She acknowledged that she had riden in the car earlier that day, and had probably left the handbag in the back seat. It has been suggested that it was her handbag, left on the rear window shelf, that had appeared to be "someone else in the back seat."
- The car went straight, off the pavement into the private, dirt Cemetery Road.
- By the time Look had proceeded around the corner a little bit, he said "I observed in my rear view mirror that the car was parked, and it looked like they were going to back up. I thought they wanted information, that they were lost or something."

Kennedy Accident - Diagram #3
Map of the intersection - Chappaquiddick Rd / Dike Rd
Prepared by Police Chief Arena with assistance from Christopher Look

- Look pulled over, got out of his car, and walked toward the other vehicle. He was 25 to 30 feet away when the car started backing up toward him, it's tail lights illuminating the deputy sheriff uniform he was wearing. Look believed the driver must have seen him, as the lights glanced off the badge and whistle on his shirt.
-He started to callout an offer of help, but the car took off down Dike Road in a cloud of dust. He observed a Massachusetts license plate beginning with the letter "L", he said. "And I did sort of a photostatic thing in my mind that it had 7s in it, at the beginning and the end."

Accident Report
- Portion of Registry Inspector's preliminary report of the accident -
*Note: Registration number L78207[ View complete report ]

- Investigators found eight Oldsmobile-style cars registered in Massachusetts with "L7" license plates, but only Ted Kennedy's was in the vicinity of Chappaquiddick at the time of the accident. This evidence essentially confirmed that it was the Senator's car that Christopher Look had seen driving down Dike Road at around 12:40 AM on the night of the accident. Although it raised serious questions with Kennedy's version of the accident, this information was never brought up at the inquest.
- Because Look's testimony was so damaging to the Senator's case, Kennedy's defense team initiated an investigation to try and dig up disparaging information that would discredit the deputy sheriff. "Investigators for Kennedy were knocking on doors all over Edgartown asking old ladies if I get drunk or run around with women," Look said. The investigation was soon discontinued when it was found that Look's reputation was exemplary.

Saturday July 19, 1969 ~ (Continued)

- At the inquest, Look testified that the driver of the of the car appeared to be in a "confused state."
- Look also stated that the car had driven down the dirt road "hurriedly, approximately 25 to 30 miles per hour. There was a lot of dust. All I could see was just the lights going down the road."
- Look testified that he had recognized the car being hauled out of Poucha Pond the next morning was the same car he had seen the night before.
- Years later, "Huck" Look maintained that he would "never live long enough" to believe he hadn't seen Ted Kennedy's car going down Dike Road an hour and a half after the Senator said the car went off Dike Bridge.

12:45 AM

- After his encounter with the Senator's car , Look returned to his own car and continued on his way home. A short distance from the intersection, he saw two women and a man doing a "conga line" down the middle of the road. He stopped to ask if they needed a lift. One of the women said "Shove off, buddy." The man in the group apologized. "Thank you, no," he said. "We're just going over there to our house." The man turned out to be Ray LaRosa, one of the Kennedy party guests.

- Ray LaRosa had gone for a walk along Chappaquiddick Road with two other party guests, Nance and Mary Ellen Lyons. He recalled that a car coming from the direction of the ferry had stopped, and a man had asked "whether we needed help or something. And one of the girls made some kind of statement. I think she said, 'Shove off,' or something of that nature," LaRosa said.
- LaRosa testified that shortly before their encounter with "Huck" Look, another car had come along heading toward the ferry, "and I held my hands out to kind of protect the two girls. The car slowed down and didn't stop and just continued on it's way."
- LaRosa was distressed when he later realized the significance of the "other car". "Hell, it could clear Kennedy once and for all if I told you it wasn't his Olds," he said, "but I really can't say."

- The strength of Christopher Look's testimony raised serious questions about why the Senator had lied about the time of the accident, and what he had been doing for an hour and a half after leaving the party.
- Even if Look's testimony were ignored, the Senator's version of events was difficult to accept. When investigators re-enacted the drive from the cottage to Dike Bridge, they found that in order to make a "wrong turn" onto Dike Road, a driver would have to ignore: ( 1 ) A directional arrow of luminized glass pointing to the left; ( 2 ) The banking of the pavement to accommodate the sharp curve; ( 3 ) The curving white line down the center of the road. To accomplish such a maneuver, a driver would also need to slow to a stop to make an abrupt 90 degree turn onto the unmistakable jarring ruts of Dike Road -(see Diagram #3).

- The Senator's "wrong turn" defense was further weakened by the fact that in the 12 hours before the accident, he had twice traveled on Dike Road and across Dike Bridge, and had twice made the trip from the ferry to the cottage and back.

Chappaquiddick Rd intersection

Arial view - Chappaquiddick Rd intersection

Chappaquiddick Rd. intersection.
On the right is Dike Rd., ahead is Cemetery Rd.
( Ferry landing is to the left. )

Arial view of the intersection.
In the foreground on the left is the curve of Chappaquiddick Rd leading to the ferry landing. In the center is Dike Rd leading to Dike Bridge on the right.

12:45 AM

- Investigators determined that at 25 miles per hour, it would have taken 1 minute and 45 seconds for Senator Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne to drive the length of Dike Road before going off Dike Bridge and into Poucha Pond. Based on the testimony of Christopher Look, the accident would have occurred around 12:45 AM on Saturday July 19, 1969.

Kennedy Accident - Diagram #2

- In his police report, Chief Arena included Diagram #2 (shown on the left) and - (see Diagram #3).(above), and described the accident scene as follows:
"Car #1 being operated East on Dike Road at unknown rate of speed - this roadway is a dirt road approx. 2 car widths wide - Operator descended a bit on roadway and came to a narrow ( 10'-6" wide ) bridge which went off to the left from the roadway at about a 25-30 degree angle. Car 1 was unable to stop upon entering the bridge and hit the small running rail ( approx. 4"high x 10"wide ) which ran along sides of the bridge. The car went off the bridge and turned over landing in the water."
- An accident analyst hired by Reader's Digest to recreate conditions by computer, suggested that Kennedy had been driving on the wrong side of Dike Road, going approximately 34 miles per hour at the time of the accident. Kennedy had slammed on the brakes when he saw the bridge, skidded 17 feet along the road, another 25 feet up the bridge, and jumped the rub rail. Despite his braking effort the car had been traveling between 20 to 22 miles per hour when it hurtled 25 feet over Poucha Pond.

- Another experiment revealed that when the car left the bridge, it began to flip over, hitting the water on the passenger side first and springing the driver's side door open on impact before sinking to the bottom.
- The Arthur D. Little Co., hired by the Kennedy defense team, used a mannequin the approximate size and weight of Mary Jo Kopechne in a test during which the accident car was flipped over and jarred with the same impact with which it struck the water in Poucha Pond. The mannequin was thrown into the rear seat of the car, the location where Mary Jo's body was discovered by a police diver the morning after the accident.



Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Ted - The Other Scandals

YTEDK Joe Kennedy Sr. page