Son of Robert Kennedy killed in skiing accident Michael L. Kennedy, 39, hits tree in Colorado

January 01, 1998|By BOSTON GLOBE

Michael L. Kennedy, brother of Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, was killed in a skiing accident in Aspen, Colo., yesterday afternoon.

Kennedy suffered a major head injury when he crashed into a tree while downhill skiing with unidentified family members about 4 p.m.

"Ethel Kennedy and her family are mourning the loss of their beloved Michael, who was fatally injured while skiing with his family in Aspen," according to a statement released by the family last night. "He was a special and wonderful father, son, brother, cousin, and friend, and his family would appreciate your prayers during this tragic time. The Kennedy family also requests that the public and the press respect their privacy during this very difficult moment."

Joseph Kennedy said in a statement: "Michael's death is a terrible tragedy for his children and the entire family. We will miss him dearly."

In a statement late last night, Gov. Parris N. Glendening said: "This is a terrible tragedy, and I was greatly saddened when I learned the devastating news about Michael Kennedy. On behalf of all Marylanders, our thoughts and prayers go out tonight to Kathleen, her husband, David, their four daughters, and the extended Kennedy family.

A spokesman for the Kennedy family told a reporter yesterday at Aspen Valley Hospital that Kennedy "hit a tree today. He's in very bad condition."

Kennedy was pronounced dead at the hospital at 5:50 p.m.

Kennedy's mother, Ethel, and other family members were at his bedside.

Kennedy was taken to the hospital by ambulance from Aspen Mountain at 4:14 p.m., according to John Norton, vice president of the Aspen Skiing Co., which runs the mountain's ski patrol.

Norton said Kennedy was skiing the Copper Bowl section of Aspen Mountain.

A local Catholic priest, the Rev. Lawrence Solan, was seen entering the hospital emergency room of the hospital at 6:20 p.m., carrying a Bible and a purple stole commonly used when last rites are administered to the dying. He left at 7 p.m., and declined to comment.

The scene in the hospital's emergency room was described by (( one observer as "very somber, very tense. Everybody is distraught."

According to one family source, Kennedy was conscious after the accident and might have initially refused medical treatment.

Kelly Murphy, spokeswoman for the Aspen Skiing Co., described Copper Bowl as a "run that is appropriate for intermediate skiers." She said the run is groomed to smooth out bumps in the snow. In the middle and late afternoon, however, the run is in shadow.

The Aspen Skiing Co., which runs the mountain, issued a description of the accident and the aftermath. It read: "At approximately, 4:15 p.m., M.S.T., the Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol received a call from one of its on-mountain patrol phones reporting an unconscious skier. Within approximately four minutes, Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol arrived on the scene of the accident, finding a man later identified as Michael Kennedy who had collided with a tree while skiing. He had been skiing with several members of his family. The ski patrol provided extensive first aid on the scene and transported Mr. Kennedy to an ambulance at the base of Aspen Mountain. On-mountain treatment included intensive cardiac care, spinal immobilization and respiratory support."

Kennedy was apparently taking an annual vacation in Colorado at the time of the accident.

Michael Kennedy, a co-founder of Stop Handgun Violence, which posted a billboard above the Massachusetts Turnpike with pictures of murdered children, wanted to carry on the legacy of good works started by his father and uncles.

He sometimes complained privately to friends that his work was being ignored amid gossip about his famous family, and tried to get reporters to focus on the causes he cared about, even inviting some along to Angola, where under Michael's efforts the family had founded a university to educate the war-torn country's population.

Kennedy had graduated from Harvard University and had a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Allegations about Kennedy's past relationship with his family's baby sitter surfaced in news accounts last spring. He and his wife, Victoria Gifford Kennedy, the daughter of sportscaster Frank Gifford, separated, and his brother Joe dropped out of the race for Massachusetts governor, in part as a result of his handling of questions about his brother's affair.

Kennedy and his wife had three children, Michael Jr., Kyle, and Rory. After his separation, his wife moved to Milton, Mass. Kennedy wanted to stay in Cohasset in order to maintain some sort of stability in his life, and had planned to resume a more public life in the new year.

An investigation into Kennedy's death is being conducted by the Pitkin County Coroner's office.

Pub Date: 1/01/98

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