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What Really Happened at Chappaquiddick?

MARY JO KOPECHNE DIED WHEN A CAR TED KENNEDY WAS DRIVING PLUNGED OFF A BRIDGE. NEARLY 50 YEARS LATER, HER FAMILY HOPES A NEW FILM WILL HELP ANSWER LINGERING QUESTIONS ABOUT THAT NIGHT—AND SHINE A LIGHT ON THE EXTRAORDINARY YOUNG WOMAN THEY LOVED
Truth and Consequences Ted Kennedy’s Oldsmobile and the senator with wife Joan on July 25, 1969, after he pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident.

The call—as Mary Jo Kopechne’s mother, Gwen, later described it—was brief. Ted Kennedy was crying, barely able to speak. “He told Gwen there’d been an accident and Mary Jo had died,” says Mary Jo’s aunt Georgetta Potoski. “Gwen just screamed and screamed. The neighbors found her. She had collapsed in shock.”

At first Gwen and her husband, Joe Kopechne, an insurance salesman, believed Senator Kennedy’s account of the night of July 18, 1969, when his car plunged off a narrow wooden bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, just off Martha’s Vineyard, landing upside down in a tidal pond with the Kopechnes’ only child, 28, trapped inside. “They trusted him,” says Potoski. “They loved the Kennedys. Everyone did. But later on they started to question what happened.”

The scandal surrounding that tragedy—starting with the 10-hour delay between when Kennedy escaped

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