Mary Jo Kopechne

Accident Victim
Date Of Birth:
1940
Date Of Death:
18 July 1969
automobile crash
Place Of Birth:
Forty Fort, Pennsylvania
Best Known As:
The woman killed in Ted Kennedy's crash on Chappaquiddick Island
Mary Jo Kopechne was killed in 1969 while riding in a car with Senator Edward Kennedy on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts. Mary Jo Kopechne was a former campaign worker for Kennedy's brother, Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated during the 1968 presidential campaign. She had grown up in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and graduated from Caldwell Women's College (now Caldwell University) in 1962. On July 18, 1969, Kopechne attended a reunion party for a few workers from the RFK campaign, held in a cabin on Chappaquiddick Island, a short ferry ride off the island of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. Edward Kennedy and Kopechne left the party together later that night; a short time afterwards, their car plunged off the Dike Bridge into a pond, where it overturned. Mary Jo Kopechne died in the car. Kennedy escaped, and later swam the short distance from Chappaquiddick back to Martha's Vineyard, where he made his way to his hotel. He didn't report the accident until the next morning, later claiming he had been dazed by the crash. The full details of the incident have never been entirely clear. Kennedy's critics suggested he had been driving drunk, had panicked after the accident, and had even tried to arrange a coverup of his involvement. Nothing was ever proved. Kennedy had been considered a likely candidate for president in 1972; instead he pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and had his driver's license revoked for a year. Mary Jo Kopechne's body was returned to Pennsylvania, where she was buried in her family's parish cemetery.
Extra Credit

Mary Jo Kopechne was an only child… Books about the incident include Jack Olsen’s The Bridge at Chappaquiddick (1969) and Leo Damore’s Senatorial Privilege (1988)… Mary Jo Kopechne’s death was overshadowed in national news by the Apollo 11 moon mission, which had launched on July 17th and which culminated in Neil Armstrong‘s moon walk on July 20th… Edward Kennedy remained in the U.S. Senate until he died on August 25, 2009, just over 40 years after Mary Jo Kopechne’s death… The bridge at Chappaquiddick is sometimes called Dike Bridge or Dike Road Bridge. It was closed to cars in 1981 due to disrepair. The bridge was rebuilt and reopened to traffic in 1996.

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