Mary Jo Kopechne was 28-years-old the night she died. Senator Edward ‘Ted’ Kennedy, then 37, gave her ride from a party, drove his car off a bridge, and pitched them into the water below.
Kennedy survived. Kopechne did not.
Almost 50 years later, what happened that July 18, 1969 night is still shrouded in questions, and it is unclear why Kennedy waited 10 hours to call the police, and, more importantly, whether an earlier alert to authorities would have saved the trapped young woman. He served no jail time.
Much of the narrative about what has become known as the Chappaquiddick scandal, so named for the island where it happened on Martha’s Vineyard, has centered on Kennedy and whether it thwarted the continuing of his family’s political dynasty.
But Kopechne was more than ‘the girl in the car’ or the ‘blonde secretary’: she was an intelligent and ambitious woman who helped Robert F. Kennedy draft speeches and worked on his presidential campaign before his assassination.
An upcoming episode of a new series, ‘1969,’ on ABC, takes another look at the scandal, and will air on Tuesday, May 7.
On July 18, 1969, Senator Edward ‘Ted’ Kennedy gave Mary Jo Kopechne a ride from a party. Kennedy was driving when the car when it went off a bridge and into the water. He got of the submerged car but Kopechne did not and died. Above, Kopechne with Robert F. Kennedy. She worked on his 1968 presidential campaign before Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated that year on June 5
Ted Kennedy, above, in a still from an upcoming episode of a new series, ‘1969,’ on ABC, that takes another look what has become known as the Chappaquiddick scandal, and will air on Tuesday, May 7
Questions still linger about what happened that July 18, 1969 night. After the car was plunged into the water, Kennedy managed to get out but Mary Jo Kopechne, then 28-years-old, did not and died. It is still unclear why Kennedy waited 10 hours before going to police. Above, people look at the car after it was pulled out of the water the day after the crash
Above, a driver attempts to raise the car after Ted Kennedy drove it off a bridge and into the water that summer night
The body of Mary Jo Kopechne being transported to a Plymouth, Pennsylvania after she died in a car crash on Martha's Vineyard
Mary Jo Kopechne, pictured, was an intelligent and ambitious woman who helped Robert F. Kennedy draft speeches and worked on his presidential campaign before his assassination on June 5, 1968
Kopechne’s ‘story has largely been lost to history as the media and the public focused on the man whose career was forever damaged by the accident, rather than the bright and young woman who did not live to tell us what really happened on that mysterious night,’ according to the news release about the show.
The six-part series examines the tumultuous and triumphant year that was 1969: the U.S. put a man on the moon, Woodstock, President Richard Nixon’s first year in office, protests as the Vietnam War raged and John Lennon and Yoko Ono held ‘Bed-Ins for Peace,’ the Manson murders, and the Stonewall riots. Some of those events, such as