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


Chapter 5 - The Accident is Discovered

" Senator, do you know there's a girl found dead in your car?"
- Antone Bettencourt - Chappaquiddick resident - 9:30 AM - Saturday - July 19, 1969

Timeline Continued
( excerpts from Senatorial Privilege by Leo Damore )

Saturday July 19, 1969

8:00 AM

- Two fishermen, returning from surf-casting on East Beach, noticed the glint of metal reflecting off a dark shape in the water off Dike Bridge. Upon closer inspection, they discovered a submerged automobile, turned upside down and resting on its roof.
- They immediately headed for the nearest cottage ( Dike House ) about 400 feet from the pond. Mrs. Malm, who was renting the cottage with her family, was cooking breakfast when the fishermen knocked at the door. After hearing their report of a car overturned in Poucha Pond, she telephoned authorities.

8:20 AM

- A call was logged at the Edgartown police station that a car was underwater off Dike Bridge on Chappaquiddick. When Police Chief Dominick Arena was informed of the situation, he first told the dispatcher to send the fire department's scuba diver to the scene, and then left the station and headed for the ferry landing.
- When he reached the ferry, Arena asked Dick Hewitt, the ferrymaster, if he had heard anything about the accident. "Not until now," Hewitt said.

8:25 AM

- John Farrar, a scuba diver and captain of the search and rescue division of Edgartown's volunteer fire department, received a call from the police dispatcher and was told to proceed at once to Dike Bridge on Chappaquiddick.
- Farrar left the bait and tackle shop he managed in Edgartown, and headed for the fire station where his diving gear was maintained in immediate readiness.

8:30 AM

- When Chief Arena arrived at the Dike Bridge, the fishermen directed him to the submerged automobile with its rear tires beginning to show above the water-line. After changing into a bathing suit, Arena waded out into the pond and swam toward the car, making a mental note of the license plate: Massachusetts registration # L78 207. He dove underwater, and caught only a blurred glimpse of the automobile before being swept away by the outgoing tide.
- Arena swam back to shore, and returned to his cruiser where he called the dispatcher to request a check of Massachusetts registrations to find the owner of the submerged vehicle. When he returned to the bridge, he borrowed a face mask from one of the fishermen and dove into the pond again.
- Still unable to maneuver against the strong current, Arena finally climbed onto the car's undercarriage and took a seat beside the gas tank to await the arrival of help.

Dike Bridge with Chief Arena
- Inquest Exhibit # 10 -

Dike Bridge ~ Edgartown Police Chief Dominick Arena sits on Kennedy's submerged car in the location it landed following the accident. Arena is unaware that the body of Mary Jo Kopechne is in the back seat.
- Rub rail on the right side of the bridge describes the path the car took before plunging into Poucha Pond.

8:35 AM

- Scuba diver John Farrar was joined at the fire station by Antone Bettencourt, the 70 year old former ferrymaster, who helped him load the diving equipment into his car and then drove him to the dock.
- Fire Chief Antone Silva was waiting in his cruiser at the Chappaquiddick landing to direct the men to the accident scene. Farrar changed into a full diving suit on the way to the bridge.

8:45 AM

- As the men arrived on the scene, Silva received the news over the cruiser's radio:
License plate # L78 207 had been issued to Edward M. Kennedy, Room 2400, JFK Building, Government Center, Boston, Massachusetts.
- Fearing another Kennedy family tragedy, John Farrar immediately entered the water and swam toward the accident vehicle holding a safety line. He gave Arena one end of the rope, put an oxygen tube in his mouth and dove underwater.

- Underwater, Farrar saw the Oldsmobile sedan balanced on the brow of its windshield, tipped forward from the weight of the engine so that its rear end was tilted toward the surface. The car was facing the opposite direction it had been traveling before plunging off the bridge. Only speed could account for such aerial maneuvers, Farrar said later. "The car must have been going at a pretty good clip to land almost in the middle of the channel."
- Farrar peered through the driver's side open window and saw the front seat was empty. He made his way to the back of the car, and through the corner of the rear window he saw two motionless feet clad in sandals. As long as there was a chance that the occupant might be alive, he had to hurry and expand the air pocket in the automobile and bring a resuscitator, if necessary.

- Farrar thrust himself through the open window and into the car. Looking up, he found the body of a young woman. Her head was cocked back, her face pressed into the footwell. Both hands gripped the front edge of the back seat to hold herself in conformity with its upholstered contours. It was not the position assumed by a person knocked unconscious by the impact of a crash, Farrar said. "If she had been dead or unconscious, she would have been prone, sinking to the bottom or floating on top. She definitely was holding herself in a position to avail herself of the last remaining air that had to be trapped in the car."
- Farrar took hold of the woman's thigh, and as soon as he touched the body he knew she was dead; the flesh in his hand was hard as wood. "Instead of life-saving, I realized I was now evidence-gathering," Farrar said. "Because I was the only person who would be able to observe this situation, it behooved me to pay attention to what I saw underwater to be able to report it."

Mary Jo's position in accident car

- Inquest Exhibit # 14 -
- Sketch of Mary Jo Kopechne's position in the accident car prepared under the direction of scuba diver John Farrar.
- Farrar believed that the car initially contained a large pocket of trapped air, represented by the original water level.

8:55 AM

- Satisfied that he had made a thorough observation of the accident scene, Farrar pulled the body of Mary Jo Kopechne out through the open window. The maneuver was complicated by the victim's hunched posture and outstretched arms made inflexible by rigor mortis.
-As he removed the body from the Senator's car, Farrar observed that it was "about one-quarter positively buoyant. There was still a little air left in her."
- Farrar tied the safety line around the victim, and brought her to the surface. The difficult recovery had taken him 10 minutes. In all, it took John Farrar 30 minutes from the time he got the call until he recovered the body from the accident car.

- Farrar repeatedly expressed the opinion that Mary Jo Kopechne had lived for some time underwater by breathing a bubble of trapped air, and that she could have been saved if rescue personnel had been promptly called to the scene. He had equipment to administer air to a trapped person directly or to augment an air pocket inside a submerged automobile.
- "There was a great possibility that we could have saved Mary Jo's life," Farrar said. "There would have been an airlock in the car - there always is in such submersions - that would have kept her alive. If we had been called, I would have reached the scene in 45 minutes. I say 45 minutes because it was dark. ( The daylight recovery had taken 30 minutes ). The lack of light might have caused a delay of 15 minutes."

- Three days before the Kennedy accident, The Boston Herald Traveler had run a story about a New Hampshire woman who had spent five hours in a submerged automobile. Amazed to find the driver unconscious but alive, police rushed the victim to a hospital where she was given respiration and treated for immersion. Doctors said an air bubble trapped inside the car had saved her life.


9:05 AM

- When the body of Mary Jo Kopechne was removed from the water, Chief Arena scrutinized her pale lifeless face. The mouth was open, teeth gritted in a death grimace. Otherwise, he said, "She appeared normal in the sense that there were no injuries that I could see."
- Arena ordered officer Robert Bruguiere, who had arrived at the scene, to summon the medical examiner and undertaker, and have a tow truck sent to the scene. As required in all fatal automobile accidents, the Registry of Motor Vehicles had to be notified too. "And see if you can find out where Ted Kennedy is and get him down here," Arena said.

9:20 AM

- Arena asked Antone Bettencourt to drive to the landing to wait for the medical examiner to come off the ferry. He then told Farrar to check downstream in the pond. "It's possible there were other people in the car. They might be in the pond someplace," he said.

9:25 AM

- Senator Kennedy was still on the phone at the Chappaquiddick landing when Markham observed a tow truck's flashing lights aboard the ferry and headed for Chappaquiddick. He went inside the ferryhouse to bring the vehicle to Ted's attention, an indication that the accident car had been discovered at Dike Bridge.
- Gargan expressed his belief that it was now essential to report the accident. "You've got to do what I've been saying all along. Get your ass over there and report it as fast as you can."

- On August 13, based on a tip from a telephone company employee, The Manchester Union Leader reportedthat Senator Kennedy had charged 17 long distance telephone calls to his credit card during the hours he claimed to be "in shock" after the accident. 
- One of the calls Kennedy made from the ferryhouse was to Mary Jo Kopechne's parents. The Senator, however, neglected to mention that he was the driver of the accident car when he called to report their daughter's death. Instead, they learned that information later from a wire service story.
- The Kopechnes found Kennedy's evasiveness and lack of candor baffling. "We didn't even know she was with Kennedy - that kind of upset us," Joe Kopechne said. "There we were, the last to know."

9:30 AM

- Arriving at the landing, Antone Bettencourt approached ferrymaster Dick Hewitt on the docked ferry and asked, "Do you know about the accident? It's Ted Kennedy's car and there's a dead girl in it."
- Hewitt nodded in the direction of the ferryhouse and said, "Well, he's standing right over there with two men."
- Bettencourt confronted Kennedy. "Senator, do you know there's a girl found dead in your car?" he said. "Do you need a ride down to the bridge?"
- "No," Kennedy said. "I'm going on over to town."

9:45 AM

- Hewitt made several more round-trips with the ferry during the next fifteen minutes, and he observed Ted Kennedy and the two other men continue "milling around" the ferryhouse. Hewitt and deckhand Steve Ewing began to wonder if the Senator knew about the accident. They walked off the ferry, and approached the ferryhouse.
- When they were within hearing distance, Hewitt called out, "Senator, are you aware of the accident?"
- Gargan replied, "Yes, we just heard about it."

- Hewitt and Ewing returned to the ferry, where they were soon joined by by Kennedy and Markham.
- Ewing noted there had been a dramatic change in the Senator's demeanor compared to their earlier encounter on the ferry ride to Chappaquiddick. "This time, Kennedy looked worried," he said.

- Gargan had suggested that Markham accompany the Senator to the police station. Under normal circumstances, Gargan would have done it, but he was determined not to be a party to any false report. So long as there was a thread of hope that "somebody else" could be reported to have been driving the accident car, Kennedy would cling to that hope. Gargan didn't want to be placed in the position - if the Senator started to lie - of having to contradict him, or be forced to go along with whatever story he was going to tell police.
- As Kennedy and Markham boarded the ferry, Gargan got into the Valiant parked at the landing and headed back to the cottage.

9:50 AM

- Steve Ewing's father, Harvey Ewing, was the Martha's Vineyard bureau chief for The New Bedford Standard-Times. When he heard about the accident at Chappaquiddick, he had gone to the landing to cover the story, and arrived just in time to spot the Senator on board the ferry and headed for Edgartown.
- Before the ferry had docked, Kennedy jumped off and went striding up the street at a brisk pace. The Senator looked "in fine shape," Ewing recalled, "smartly turned out in light blue pants, white polo shirt and canvas deck shoes."
- As Kennedy strode away, undertaker Eugene Frieh boarded the ferry in the Buick station wagon he used as a hearse. With him was associate medical examiner, Dr. Donald Mills.

- Meanwhile, the tow truck driven by Jon Ahlbum arrived at the Dike Bridge. Arena didn't want the car removed from Poucha Pond until registry inspectors arrived. "They don't like it when an accident scene is disturbed before they can do their investigation," he told Ahlbum. "That's Ted Kennedy's car down there in the water," he added.
- "Gee, I just saw him at the ferry landing on the Chappaquiddick side," Ahlbum said.
- "Oh, God. I better get hold of him," Arena said.
- Using the phone at the Dike House, Arena called the police station and told the dispatcher to send someone down to the landing to find Ted Kennedy. "He's right here, Chief, and he wants to talk to you," the dispatcher told him.
- "I'm afraid, Senator, I have some bad news," Arena told Kennedy. "There's been another tragedy. Your car was in an accident over here. And the young lady is dead."
- "I know," Kennedy said.
- "Can you tell me, was there anybody else in the car?"
- "Yes," Kennedy said.
- "Are they in the water?"
- "No," Kennedy said. "Can I talk to you? Could I see you?"
- "Do you want to come over here?" Arena asked. "Or do you want me to go over there?"
- "I prefer you to come over here," Kennedy replied.
- Not bothering to change clothes, Arena left Dike House and headed for Edgartown.

- Having arrived at the bridge, the medical examiner Dr. Donald Mills began his examination of the victim, while the undertaker Eugene Frieh looked on.
- Mills removed the blanket which was covering the body to find a "very attractive young woman" in complete rigor mortis. Her arms were stretched outward from her shoulders as if to ward off an assault; hands were frozen in a "semi-claw."
- Mills ran his hands through the wet hair for evidence of skull fracture, then the throat and neck. He felt the rib cage, then tapped the chest. He passed his hands over the back and abdomen. He found no evidence of trauma of any kind.
- Frieh closely followed Mill's examination. As a mortician, "I more or less kept my eyes open," he said. Frieh observed that water seeped from the nose and mouth when the body was turned onto its side. "That probably came from her stomach," he said.
- "No," Mills said, "that's water from her lungs."
- Dr. Mills diagnosed "an obvious and clear case of drowning. After all," he said," the girl was found in a submerged automobile."
- Frieh was not so sure. He was aware that Mills was more concerned at that moment with a patient in labor he had left at the Martha's Vinyard Hospital in Oak Bluffs, seven miles away.
- Mills ordered Frieh to remove the body to his funeral home, but to hold off embalming. In view of "certain non-medical factors and personalities involved," Mills wanted to consult the District Attorney's office about a possible autopsy. "If there's any Kennedy mixup in this, it's more than I want to handle alone."
- Dr. Mills rode back to Edgartown in Frieh's hearse.

10:00 AM

- Arena arrived at the Edgartown police station, and found Kennedy in his office using his phone.
- "Hello, Senator. I'm Jim Arena," he said.
- Kennedy hung up, came around the desk to shake Arena's outstretched hand and said, "Hello, Jim."
- From his state trooper days at Suffolk County Courthouse in Boston, Arena recognized the other man with Kennedy as former US Attorney Paul Markham. Arena said, "I'm sorry about the accident."
- "Yes, I know," Kennedy said. "I was the driver."
- "Nothing in my prior career as a police officer," Arena recalled later, "had prepared me for standing in a wet bathing suit and shaking hands with a United States Senator - and a Kennedy - who tells me he is the driver of a car from which I have just removed the body of a beautiful young girl. I was stunned."
- Arena was struck by the incongruity of the situation. "Our roles could have been reversed. The Senator was in clean, dry clothes - poised, confident and in control, using my office and telephone. I'm standing in a puddle of water in a state of confusion thinking I had only minutes before broken the news of a personal tragedy he's now telling me quite calmly he knows all about."
- "What would you like me to do?" Kennedy asked. "We must do what is right or we will both be criticized for it."
- As far as Arena could see, it was a routine motor vehicle accident. "The first thing we have to do," he said, "is to have a statement from you about what happened."
- "Would it be all right if I wrote it out?" kennedy said, requesting time "undisturbed" to prepare the statement.
- Arena led the way to and unoccupied office down the hall "so the Senator could have some privacy". Kennedy asked Arena to return to Chappaquiddick to see that his car "got out and cleared OK."
- Arena, who was thoroughly rattled by the Senator's admission that he had been the driver of the fatal accident car, was glad for the reprieve. On his way to the ferry, Arena collected his thoughts, reminding himself of the proper police procedures to follow when he returned to the station to receive Kennedy's statement.



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

YTEDK Joe Kennedy Sr. page