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


Chapter 3 - After the Accident: Profile in Cowardice

"Senator Kennedy killed that girl the same as if he put a gun to her head
and pulled the trigger"
- George Killen ~ State Police Detective-Lieutenant

Timeline Continued
Using the time of the accident - 12:40 AM - based on Huck Look's testimony
( excerpts from Senatorial Privilege by Leo Damore )

Saturday July 19, 1969

12:40 AM

- In his statement to police, Ted Kennedy claimed that after escaping from his submerged automobile, he "repeatedly dove down to the car in an attempt to see if the passenger was still in the car."
- At the inquest, the Senator elaborated on his story. "I was fully aware that I was doing everything that I possibly could to get the girl out of the car. And that my head was throbbing and my neck was aching and I was breathless, and at the time, hopelessly exhausted." When he abandoned his rescue attempt, he let himself float to shore. "And I sort of crawled and staggered up some place and was very exhausted and spent on the grass." He said he rested there on the banking for 15 to 20 minutes.

Beginning with his first statement to police ( view statement ) Kennedy has always maintained that he delayed reporting the accident to authorities because he was "confused and in shock" after the accident. The Senator's statements regarding his rescue attempts suggest that in fact he was quite aware that Miss Kopechne's life was in peril and that immediate action was in order.

1:00 AM

- Kennedy testified that after he regained his breath, "I started walking, trotting, jogging, stumbling as fast as I possibly could. It was extremely dark," he said, and "I never saw a cottage with a light on." Kennedy said he walked back to the Lawrence Cottage in "approximately 15 minutes."

- Kennedy's claims were contradicted by several residents of Dike Road:

- Sylvia Malm was spending the summer in the "Dike House" with her family. The house was only 150 yards from the scene of the accident ( see photo below ). Her daughter had been reading under an open window facing the bridge until about 11:45 PM, but did not recall hearing anything unusual.
- When the family went to bed, Mrs. Malm had left a light burning all night at the back door of the house. The light was visible from Dike Bridge. Sometime after midnight, Mrs. Malm heard a car "going faster than usual" on Dike Road, but nothing else.
- The Reverend and Mrs. David Smith lived in the house across the street. They were certain that they had left a light on in one of the bedrooms that was also visible from the road.

View of Dike Rd from the Bridge

Inquest Exhibit #8 - The view of Dike Road from the bridge.
*Note: Dike House in background

- Both the Malms and the Smiths were mystified that Senator Kennedy had not sought their help after the accident, especially considering the proximity of their houses to Poucha Pond.

See Diagram #3
for location of

-State Police Detectives George Killen and Bernie Flynn were assigned by the district attorney's office to investigate the accident. When they re-traced Kennedy's walk from the bridge to the cottage, Flynn observed that "Dike House was so close to the bridge, there's no way you could go down that road and not see that house. It stuck out like a sore thumb." Diagonally across the street was the Smith house, which they noted was also clearly visible from the road.
- They counted two more houses that Kennedy passed by on his way to the cottage, the last being the house of Fire Captain Foster Silva, who had also left a light burning the night of the accident. Apparently, Kennedy had walked past four houses, all of which were occupied the night of the accident, and at least three of which had left lights on, yet he had made no attempt to summon help.
- Only 150 yards beyond the Lawrence cottage was the Chappaquiddick Volunteer Fire Station. Visible from the Lawrence cottage, a red light burned over the unlocked door, and a switch inside tripped a roof-mounted siren. Had the alarm been sounded, "I would have been there in three minutes", Silva said, "and my volunteers and half the people on the island would have shown up within 15 minutes".

- In all, it took Flynn and Killen 23 minutes to walk the 1.2 miles from the bridge to the cottage. Based on this figure, Kennedy would have arrived at the cottage around 1:20 AM.

- Detective Bernie Flynn eventually put together a scenario for the accident :
"I figure,we've got a drunk driver, Ted Kennedy. He's with this girl, and he has it in his mind to go down to the beach and make love to her. He's probably driving too fast and he misses the curve and goes into Cemetery Road. He's backing up when he sees this guy in uniform coming toward him. That's panic for the average driver who's been drinking; but here's a United States Senator about to get tagged for driving under. He doesn't want to get caught with a girl in his car, on a deserted road late at night, with no license and driving drunk on top of it. In his mind, the most important thing is to get away from the situation.
- He doesn't wait around. He takes off down the road. He's probably looking in the rear-view mirror to see if the cop is following him. He doesn't even see the f---ing bridge and bingo! He goes off. He gets out of the car; she doesn't. The poor son of a bitch doesn't know what to do. He's thinking: "I want to get back to my house, to my friends" - which is a common reaction.
- There are houses on Dike Road he could have gone to report the accident, but he doesn't want to. Because it's the same situation he was trying to get away from at the corner - which turned out to be minor compared to what happened later. Now there's been an accident; and the girl's probably dead. All the more reason not to go banging on somebody's door in the middle of the night and admit what he was doing. He doesn't want to reveal himself."
"And the funny part about it was, 'Huck' was only trying to give his directions."

- Richard McLaughlin, the Massachusetts Registrar of Motor Vehicles, had won praise for his tough stance on drunk driving. He had recommended lowering the legal limits for blood alcohol levels, and mandatory jail sentences for those found guilty of drunk driving.
- Although McLaughlin would later actively participate in the "fixing" of the Senator's expired driver's license, his private opinion of the Kennedy accident was severe. Leaving the scene of an accident and delaying a report for more than nine hours, for all practical purposes foreclosed a drunk driving charge. "It effectively deprives officers of evidence of chemical testing and direct observation of the operator," he said. "So if you wanted to avoid a drunk driving charge after an accident - that's how you do it."

Timeline Continued


Saturday July 19, 1969

1:20 AM

- When Kennedy arrived back at the cottage, he saw the white Valiant parked near the front door. The Senator testified that as he came up to the back of the vehicle, he saw Ray LaRosa. Kennedy made no mention of the accident to LaRosa, however, and instead told him to go get Joe Gargan and Paul Markham: the two lawyers.
- Kennedy climbed into the back seat of the car and waited. According to Gargan, when he and Markham came out, the Senator told them "There's been a terrible accident. The car's gone off the bridge down by the beach, and Mary Jo is in it."

*NOTE: Kennedy claimed in his police report that he had made a "wrong turn" onto an "unfamiliar" road, yet he described the accident scene to Gargan as "the bridge down by the beach". ( Where they had both been little more than 12 hours earlier. )

- Gargan recalled that Kennedy "didn't bark out any orders or anything. He made it clear that he had been driving the car; and that Mary Jo was with him. That's all I needed to know." The three men drove back to the Dike Bridge without telling anyone where they were going or why.
- The Senator later testified that "I believe that I looked at the Valiant's clock and believe that it was 12:20 AM", contriving to establish the time of the accident. ( When it was discovered by The Boston Globe in 1974 that the Valiant rented for the regatta weekend had no clock, Kennedy admitted, "I made a mistake about a clock being in the Valiant that wasn't there." Caught in the lie, he sought to correct his answer retroactively. "I am also aware that Paul Markham had a watch on and that I did determine the time." )

- In fact, Kennedy's encounter with Ray LaRosa back at the cottage establishes a time that is in direct conflict with the Senator's story, and supports 'Huck" Look's belief that he saw Kennedy's car on Dike Road.
1) - There is no dispute that 'Huck' Look worked in Edgartown until 12:30 AM. It is reasonable to assume that it took him 10 minutes to get to Chappaquiddick, climb into his car, and drive to the Dike Road intersection. Look's testimony that it was at about 12:40 AM when he encountered the black sedan at the intersection is consistent with the facts.
2) - A short distance from the intersection, Look encountered two women and one man walking on Chappaquiddick Road in the direction of the Lawrence cottage. Ray LaRosa's testimony regarding this encounter is virtually identical to Look's, and therefore places LaRosa on Chappaquiddick Road at around 12:45 AM.
3) - It would have taken LaRosa and the girls at least 10 more minutes to walk the rest of the way to the cottage, arriving no sooner than 12:55 AM.
4) - After leaving the scene of the accident, Kennedy arrived at the cottage and immediately encountered LaRosa, who had already returned form his walk. The Senator therefore could not have arrived back at the cottage before 1:00 AM.
- In the timeline put forth by Ted Kennedy: the accident occurred at 11:15 PM, a rescue attempt was made, he rested for 20 minutes, and he returned to the cottage in 20 minutes. Since he could not have seen LaRosa before 1:00 AM, Kennedy's version of events leaves nearly one hour unaccounted for.

- Kennedy's actions upon reaching the cottage also raise serious questions about his motives and state of mind.
1) - The first person Kennedy saw when he reached the cottage was Ray LaRosa, but remarkably the Senator made no mention of the accident to him. As a former fireman, LaRosa was experienced in life-saving techniques; and because he had not been drinking at the party, he was clearly the most qualified to deal with the current emergency.
2) - Instead of alerting the first person he saw, Kennedy calmly asked LaRosa to go get Gargan and Markham while he waited outside. By hiding in the Valiant, the Senator eliminated the possibility that he would be noticed by any of the other party guests, a conscious and calculated effort to keep the accident a secret from everyone except his lawyers.
3) - Paul Markham, who injured his leg during the regatta, had been drinking heavily because of the pain. He could be of little assistance in a rescue attempt, but he was a lawyer.
4) - Kennedy would later use lawyer-client privilege to prevent Gargan and Markham from giving any information to authorities. For the next 8 hours, they would be the only people on the island who were even aware of the accident.
- Senator Kennedy's actions do not reflect a state of shock, but instead suggest a deliberate and calculated effort to cover up his involvement in the accident, while at the same time concealing the fate of Mary Jo Kopechne from those who could have saved her.

Timeline Continued


Saturday July 19, 1969

1:25 AM

- When the three men reached the bridge, Gargan recalled seeing the Senator's car upside-down in the middle of the pond. Kennedy guessed that it had been at least 45 minutes since the time of the accident. Gargan drove across the bridge and parked the Valiant on the beach side with the headlights shining over the water.
- Both Gargan and Markham stripped naked and dove into the water. "All I was interested in was saving the girl," Gargan said. "I wasn't thinking about anything else."
- A strong current was running through the narrow channel which made swimming difficult. The two men struggled against the current for some time, trying to find a way into the car. Gargan was eventually able to locate a door handle and yanked on it, but the door wouldn't budge. He moved around the car until he found an opening he presumed to be a window. He pushed his body into the car, but was unable to see in the dark water and could only "grope around to see if I could touch anything." Gargan began running out of breath, and in panic he pushed himself out fiercely, cutting his arms and chest as he exited the car.
- Ted Kennedy had observed the rescue attempts from the bridge, calling out, "Can you see her? Is she in there?" In the glow of the Valiant's headlights, Gargan saw the Senator stretched out on his back on the bridge. With his hands clasped behind his head, knees drawn up, Kennedy was looking into the sky, rocking back and forth, repeating, "Oh my God. What am I going to do? What am I going to do?"
- Markham and Gargan made several more attempts to open the doors, but fighting the current had taken it's toll. "The water was bad; it was rough," Gargan recalled. "I almost drowned." Exhausted and out of breath, they gave up.

1:40 AM

- Gargan and Markham climbed out of the water and onto the bridge.
" I just can't believe this happened," Kennedy said.
" Well, what the hell happened?" Gargan said.
" I was driving down the road, and before I knew it, I was on the bridge," Kennedy said. "The car went over the side. I thought for sure I was going to drown. And the next thing I know, I'd come to the top of the water." He said he had tried going back to the car to get Mary Jo out, but he couldn't do it. " I don't believe this could happen to me. I don't understand it. I don't know how it could happen."
" Well, it has happened," Markham said.
" What am I going to do?" Kennedy said. " What can I do?"
" There's nothing you can do," Markham said.
" OK...," Kennedy said, "Take me to Edgartown."
- Gargan recalled that as he got dressed, he "had one thing in mind at the time, and that was to report the accident. I didn't say that when I was dressing, but I was thinking what happened had to be reported immediately."
- The men got into the Valiant, and Gargan drove slowly toward the intersection. He recalled "There was a discussion about what to do now. We were all stunned; we were all horrified. We were discussing the situation, trying to decide what to do; trying to get the story together prior to reporting the accident."
- Gargan's intended destination was the ferry landing, "Because that was the location of safety; that's where we could get help to report this thing."
- In the back seat, Kennedy kept repeating, "Do you believe it, Joe? Do you believe it happened?"

- 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.
- John Farrar, the rescue diver who examined the Chappaquiddick accident scene, was convinced that Mary Jo Kopechne had not only survived the crash, but had also lived for some time by breathing a pocket of trapped air. Farrar did not believe that she had drowned, but instead had died by asphyxiation as the oxygen in the air she was breathing was used up and replaced with carbon dioxide. "She was alive, easily an hour, maybe two," he said.

In John Farrar's opinion, if the accident had occurred at 12:40 AM, Mary Jo Kopechne could have lived until 2:40 AM - an hour after Kennedy, Gargan, and Markham left the scene and headed for the ferry landing.



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

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