Anatomy of tragedy

John F. Kennedy Jr.

July 19, 1999

July 16

* John F. Kennedy Jr., 38, takes off in his single-engined Piper Saratoga (similar to the one pictured) from the Essex County Airport in Fairfield, New Jersey, at 8:38 p.m. His wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, 33, and her sister Lauren Bessette, 35, are passengers.

* They are expected at Martha's Vineyard about 10 p.m.

July 17

* Kennedy family alerts authorities at 2 a.m. that the plane is overdue.

* News of the missing plane breaks Saturday morning as television networks begin continuous coverage.

* Coast Guard Rear Adm. Richard Larrabee says chances are slim that the three survived in the cold waters off Massachusetts. A massive air and sea search begins. Fifty members of the Kennedy family attend a Mass at their Hyannis Port compound on Cape Cod. President Clinton calls members of the family, including Kennedy's sister, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, and uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat.

* A suitcase belonging to Lauren Bessette, an investment banker, washes ashore Saturday afternoon. A cosmetics bag and a bottle of prescription medicine bearing Carolyn Kennedy's name are found at the southwest tip of Martha's Vineyard.

* Also recovered are an airplane wheel and strut, carpeting and a headrest apparently from a Piper.

* The National Transportation Safety Board dispatches officials to Martha's Vineyard to begin an investigation.

July 18

* Coast Guard says that by yesterday morning, no signs of survivors have been found and that it is unlikely that anyone could have survived so long in the cold Atlantic.

* In Quart, Italy, Pope John Paul II is told of the plane's disappearance and says in Latin, "May the Lord grant him eternal rest."

Pub Date: 07/19/99

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