On the evening of July 16, 1999, John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife, Carolyn Bessette, and his sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette, died in a plane crash. Kennedy Jr. was the pilot of the six-seat, single-engine Piper Saratoga that crashed.
The three were en route to attend the wedding of Rory Kennedy, Kennedy Jr’.s cousin, when the plane descended into the Atlantic Ocean off Martha’s Vineyard.
According to the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board), Kennedy suffered from spatial disorientation and lost control of the aircraft; when the accident occurred, the weather and light conditions made flight difficult. A 2007 article in USA Today goes on to read, “A report of the National Transportation Safety Board blamed pilot error for the crash, saying Kennedy, who had been flying for 15 months, was not skilled enough for low-visibility nighttime flying and became disoriented in the hazy sky.”
According to the New York Times, one of Kennedy’s flight instructors offered to fly with him on that fateful night, but Kennedy denied the offer, saying he ‘wanted to do it alone’. The New York Times added, “Mr. Kennedy, who had not yet qualified for flying with instruments alone (as opposed to seeing visual cues through the windows), probably had less than one hour’s experience flying his plane at night without an instructor… [The report] noted that a common cause of crashes among pilots untrained in instrument flying was taking off when visibility was good (a situation known as Visual Flight Rules, or V.F.R.) but flying into conditions where it was not, making the piloting more difficult than they can handle.”
Five days after the tragic crash, the bodies of Kennedy Jr., his wife, and his sister-in-law, were recovered off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and his two sons, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, and Edward M. Kennedy Jr., were flown to Martha’s Vineyard to identify the bodies.
In 2007, Reuters published an article titled, “JFK Jr.’s last radio comments were routine.” In the piece, they write that the air traffic transcripts from that day give no clues as to what caused the crash that killed the three onboard the small plane.
The ashes of John F. Kennedy Jr., Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and Lauren Bessette, were scattered at sea, about three miles from where their bodies were recovered.
According to Biography.com, the family of Carolyn and Lauren received a monetary settlement resulting from their wrongful death lawsuit against the Kennedy family.
Carolyn Bessette Kennedy
Carolyn Bessette was born in White Plains, New York, and was widely known as a fashion icon and trendsetter. She attended Boston University, after which time she worked at a Calvin Klein’s store in Boston. According to Biography.com, she first met JFK Jr. when they were both on a run in Central Park.
The two married in 1996. A recent article in Town and Country Magazine says of the couple, “John, 38, was American royalty, as famous for his good looks as for his name. His wife, 33, was an enigma, mysterious and elegant.”