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Mary Jo Kopechne's Death

Mary Jo Kopechne

She worked as a secretary, a teacher, and a political campaign worker. Mary Jo Kopechne was all of these things - and was also one of the most famous victims of the 1960's when a car she was riding in went off a small bridge to Martha's Vineyard. The reason the accident got so much attention was because the driver not only escaped with his life but waited hours to report the accident. That driver was Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Mary Jo Kopechne

Mary Jo worked for Kennedy's older brother Bobby, in his aborted 1968 presidential bid. A year later, in the summer of 1969, Kopechne attended a reunion party for the RFK campaign workers on Chappaquiddick Island.

map of Chappaquiddick Island

She left the party shortly after 11, riding with the Senator to catch the last ferry to Edgartown, where she was staying.


Kennedy's 1967 Oldsmobile went off a narrow bridge with no railings…

car overturned in the water

…and overturned into the water.

car overturned in the water

Kennedy made it out.

Ted Kennedy

Kopechne didn't.

sketch of car accident

Her body was discovered the next morning. Kennedy then reported the accident.

newspaper report of accident

Not even man's first steps on the moon the next day, July 20th, could calm the controversy.

Kennedy and his wife Joan attended her funeral on July 22nd…

Ted Kennedy at funeral

…and he made a statement to Massachusetts voters a week later, after pleading guilty to leaving the scene of an accident

Kennedy got a two month suspended sentence and remained in the U.S Senate, serving for nearly 47 years, the fourth-longest term ever. Kennedy died of cancer in August, 2009 and he's buried near his brothers John and Robert in Virginia's Arlington National Cemetery.

Kennedy burial site

Mary Jo Kopechne is buried in Plymouth, Pennsylvania.

Mary Jo Kopechne burial site