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(AP) On a steamy summer weekend, as word spread that John F. Kennedy Jr.’s plane was missing, Americans wondered if another throat-tightening Kennedy tragedy was in the making. Wherever people knew him or admired his renowned family, a somber mood fell Saturday. At New York’s Yankee Stadium, before an afternoon game against the Atlanta Braves, Yankees announcer Bob Sheppard invoked a moment of silent prayer. “The Kennedy family has done so much for our country,’’ Sheppard said. JFK Jr. watched another Yankees-Braves game from a front-row Yankee Stadium box Thursday night. JFK Jr. had become a New Yorker, but he was homeward bound to the Kennedy homestead Friday evening with his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy; and her sister, Lauren. They were missing aboard a plane that left New Jersey headed for a family wedding Saturday in Hyannisport, Mass. By Saturday afternoon, the front step of the couple’s New York apartment was covered with bouquets of red roses, white daisies and sunflowers and a white candle. The building, nine floors of stone and brick, is in the fashionable but quiet Tribeca neighborhood, where artists and art galleries transformed a former industrial section of lower Manhattan. A solitary police officer kept the curious away. Elsewhere, anxious Americans kept somber vigils around television sets.
5:00 PM [EST] -- Second televised briefing held on status of search. More debris found. Hope dims.
The day-long search by planes, helicopters and boats finally yields little but some fragments of Kennedy’s red-and-white plane, a piece of baggage labeled with the business card of Lauren Bessette, sister of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and a prescription bottle belonging to Bessette Kennedy. State police say late tonight that the visual aerial search has been suspended until Sunday at daybreak, but an Air National Guard helicopter with infrared sensors will continue searching overnight in the dark. ``It’s basically a heat seeker,’’ says Massachusetts State Police Capt. Robert Bird. “It allows articles to be located based on differences in temperatures between water and... a body or a person in the water.’’ A Coast Guard official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says searchers on the water hope they might see an emergency beacon or search light in the darkness, or rescue ships might turn off their engines and hear faint distress calls.
Authorities say National Transportation Safety Board investigators already were at work on the Vineyard. At Philbin Beach in Aquinnah
- the portion of the Vineyard popularly known as Gay Head - luggage, a wheel, a headrest and part of a plane support known as a strut have washed up, said Coast Guard Lt. Craig Jaramillo. Lt. Col. Richard Stanley of the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary says other searchers have discovered pieces of landing gear, part of a rubber pedal apparatus and pieces of seat. Erin McCarthy, 31, of Boston, saw the black bag with Lauren Bassette’s name on it in the water. A friend, Damon Seligson, waded in to retrieve it. “It was kind of like, ‘Oh God.’ It seemed like it would be pretty bad news. Everyone was shaking,’’ said McCarthy. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration sends a submersible named ``Rude’’ (pronounced Rudy) to aid in the search, and it begins its work this evening, using sonar to look for wreckage. The Federal Aviation Administration reports the last contact with the plane during its final approach to the airport on the island off Cape Cod at 9:39 p.m., the Coast Guard says. “The aircraft was due to arrive at Martha’s Vineyard around 10 p.m. and was later expected to fly to Hyannis Port,’’ the statement says.
July 18, 1999 (Sunday) A Coast Guard Falcon jet takes off about 6 a.m. beginning the daytime search for JFK’s missing plane and assess weather conditions. An hour earlier, authorities began combing the beach on all-terrain vehicles looking for any signs of the plane or its passengers that may have washed ashore. At a news conference, police Capt. Robert Bird appealed to the public to turn over any debris that might be related to the crash, noting that holding on to such evidence is a criminal offense. ‘’It can be an essential part of this investigation,’’ he says. Bird also says crews are likely to search for debris on an island known as Nomans Land, a former military site about 3 1/2 miles southwest of Martha’s Vineyard.
A day-long search Saturday yielded plane fragments, a prescription bottle belonging to Kennedy’s wife and a piece of baggage belonging to his sister-in-law, but no signs of life. Coast Guard cutters using bright lights and a sonar-equipped ship searched overnight, but three helicopters and an Air National Guard C-130 airplane were grounded early Sunday because of low haze. Coast Guard Rear Adm.
Richard Larrabee, interviewed today on ABC’s ‘’This Week,’’ says the search with sonar was hampered by ‘’the very rocky bottom that complicates the process.’’ Larrabee is among several officials connected with the search who said they still hoped to find the plane’s passengers alive.
But at a news conference at 9 a.m. this morning, Larrabee noted that the water temperature is 68 degrees and ‘’the survivability in those temperatures has been exceeded.’’ At Philbin Beach in Aquinnah - the portion of the Vineyard popularly known as Gay Head - a wheel, a headrest and part of a plane support known as a strut has washed up, says Coast Guard Lt. Craig Jaramillo. A black bag with Lauren Bessette’s name on it also is found.
The FAA reported the last contact with the plane was at 9:39 p.m. Friday during its final approach to the airport on the island off Cape Cod. Radar records showed the plane’s last known location was about 17 miles southwest of the Vineyard. John Fish, a sonar expert with Cape Cod-based American Underwater Search and Survey, says water depths range from 84 to 120 feet in the area. ‘’The seabed is flat, sugar sand, fine sand. There are no canyons that would hide wreckage,’’ Fish says. However, he admits that shadows from boulders and debris from about 20 shipwrecks in the area could hinder the search.
News reports also include the statement that the plane’s disappearance came one day before the 30th anniversary of the Chappaquiddick incident, in which Sen. Edward Kennedy’s car went off a bridge, killing passenger Mary Jo Kopechne on a tiny island adjacent to Martha’s Vineyard.
Caroline Kennedy, the only other survivor of the young family that transfixed the world four decades ago, was on a rafting trip out West when she got the news.
Late tonight, official reports state that the mission focus is now shifting from “rescue” to “search and recovery.” Officials have now given up hope of finding any survivors.
July 19, 1999 A. Stanley Tretick, the former Look magazine photographer who shot memorable portraits of forn mer President Kennedy and his children, dies today from strokes. He is 77. Among the indelible images captured by Tretick was a picture of John F. Kennedy Jr. as a toddler looking out from under his father’s desk in the White House. (President Bill Clinton chose to use the same desk in the Oval Office during his tenure.) Tretick’s photos have become classics in American photojournalism, and in recent days, have been seen around the country, as the nation seeks to recapture the early years in the life of John Jr. A month before his assassination, President Kennedy invited Tretick to the White House to photograph the children while Jacqueline Kennedy was out of the country. The president had an advance copy of the magazine with the photos as he traveled aboard Air Force One. Tretick also took photos of the president’s brother - including one of Robert Kennedy with his arms crossed that was eventually used as a postage stamp.
A campaign picture of JFK standing on the hood of a car with hands reaching up to touch him and a photo of the president driving a golf cart full of Kennedy children are among other memorable moments captured by Tretick. Tretick, a native of Baltimore who was raised in Washington, worked at several news organizations, including The Washington Post and United Press International, before taking a job at Look magazine to cover the Kennedy family. After the magazine folded in the 1970s, he became one of the founding photographers of People magazine.
July 21, 1999 (8:04 A.M.) [EST] CBS News reports that John F. Kennedy Jr.’s body has been found - along with a large portion of the sunken plane’s fuselage. (The initial story comes from Associated Press.) Jim Hall, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, and Coast Guard Rear Adm. Richard Larrabee, who is overseeing the search, cancel a round of morning TV appearances and go to the USS Grasp, the ship where the wreckage is to be deposited after being raised from the ocean floor. The heightened activity takes place after ships from the Navy, Coast Guard and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration spent last night scouring a site 7 1/2 miles southwest of the Martha’s Vineyard coast, a spot that investigators had speculated was the likely splash point for the plane that crashed Friday night while carrying Kennedy, his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and her sister Lauren Bessette. There is no immediate word about whether the women’s bodies had been located. Government sources say Kennedy family aides and friends were in New York, planning a memorial service for all three victims, perhaps on Saturday. Several experienced pilots who flew into the Vineyard on Friday night said the hazy skies and darkness were challenging even for them. Kennedy obtained his pilot’s license in April 1998. At a briefing yesterday, Robert Pearce, who is heading the investigation for the National Transportation Safety Board, gave a more detailed explanation of the approach.
All seemed fine about 34 miles from the airport, with the plane descending from 5,600 feet to about 2,300 feet at a slightly faster-thannormal rate of 700 feet per minute.
About 20 miles from the airport, the plane started turning to the right and climbing back to 2,600 feet. After leveling off, it flew for a short time before beginning another turn to the right and starting ‘’a rapid rate of descent’’ that may have exceeded 5,000 feet per minute, or about 10 times faster than normal.
The descent was 3,000 feet per minute faster than what would be a stressful approach for even the most experienced flier, experts said.
Pearce would not speculate on the damage caused by such a crash, but said: ‘’I’m sure you can draw a conclusion by the debris we’ve been bringing in, which is fragmented.’’ On the fourth full day of the search, the FAA acknowledged it was asked in a phone call from an intern at the Martha’s Vineyard airport to help locate the plane Friday night. The caller, 21-year-old Adam Budd, expressed no great urgency as he telephoned an FAA station in Bridgeport, Conn., at 10:05 p.m. Friday, FAA officials said. He said he called at the request of an unidentified couple who had come to the airport to meet Lauren Bessette. Kennedy and his wife had planned to drop her off on their way to Hyannis Port for his cousin’s wedding. Budd asked if the agency could track the airplane, but the person at the FAA station questioned him about who he was and finally said: ‘’We don’t give this information out to people over the phone.’’ Budd gave up, saying, ‘’It’s not a big deal.’’ The plane had gone down about 9:40 p.m. Nothing was done until a much more urgent call was made to the Coast Guard at 2:15 a.m. by a Kennedy family friend. An FAA spokesman said the person who took Budd’s call acted appropriately.
But an unidentified FAA source said in today’s Boston Globe that the agency was considering disciplinary action against the employee for not coming forward about the call when it became clear the plane was missing. Sources close to the Kennedy family who spoke on condition of anonymity say a memorial service likely will be held in New York, where the victims lived, and would not be held before Friday. By the evening, news reports indicate that ALL bodies have been recovered - and that tomorrow morning at 9:00 A.M., the cremated remains will be buried at sea.