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Crash and Search Time Line

Thursday, July 22

9 a.m. Kennedy and Bessette family members carried the cremated remains of John F. Kennedy Jr., Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and Lauren Bessette onto the USS Briscoe, a Navy destroyer with a crew of more than 300. The ashes were to be scattered at sea off Martha's Vineyard, about three miles from where the bodies were recovered.


Wednesday, July 21

4:30 p.m. The bodies of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife and his sister-in-law were recovered from the ocean floor by Navy divers and taken by motorcade to the county medical examiner's office. Autopsies reveal that the crash victims died upon impact. The families announce plans for memorial services.

10:30 a.m. The recovery team identifies the bodies of sisters Lauren Bessette and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy amid the wreckage. Sen. Ted Kennedy and his two sons go to the USS Grasp to be briefed on recovery operations.

6:30 a.m. The Grasp is repositioned over the wreckage area. Thirty divers, 10 from the Navy and 20 from the Massachusetts State Police, stand ready to search the wreckage.

Ted Kennedy

Tuesday, July 20

11:30 p.m. A remote-operated vehicle from the USS Grasp locates the fuselage of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane at a depth of more than 110 feet.

Monday, July 19

11 a.m. Police divers set out in three 28-foot Coast Guard boats from Menemsha Harbor in Chilmark, Martha's Vineyard. The 163-foot Whiting, another research vessel, and the USS Grasp, a Navy salvage vessel, are expected to join the search efforts.

Sunday, July 18

5:30 a.m. The Coast Guard cutter Willow arrives. At Philbin Beach and Gay Head, Coast Guard HH-60J helicopters and the Air Force HC-130 flying command post join planes and inflatable boats on an expanded search.

Noon Three miles south of Martha's Vineyard, searchers recover another Piper headrest, like the one that washed ashore on Saturday.

2 p.m. Insulation of the type that would surround an airplane cockpit is found on shore.

4 p.m. An Air Force HC-130 detects a "ping," or electronic transmission, from an underwater transponder and shifts its search location. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Richard M. Larrabee sends the Rude to new site, which turns out to be a false lead.

9:45 p.m. Larrabee declares a shift of focus from "search and rescue to search and recovery," in support of a federal investigation into the cause of the crash. He concedes that, in 68-degree waters such as those off Martha's Vineyard, there is little chance of survival beyond 18 hours.

Saturday, July 17

2:15 a.m. The Kennedy family notifies the Coast Guard at Cape Cod that the plane has not arrived. Coast Guard contacts the Federal Aviation Administration, which contacts airports to determine whether the plane has landed elsewhere.

4 a.m. The Coast Guard search begins.

7:30 a.m. Air Force and Coast Guard launch a search with 20 aircraft and two boats between Long Island and Martha's Vineyard.

8:06 a.m. NBC news reports the plane is missing.

Saturday afternoon: Debris from the plane, including a headrest and a black canvas suitcase with a business card for Lauren Bessette, washes up on Philbin Beach in the town of Gay Head. The search area is narrowed to 550 square miles.
The 6 p.m. wedding of Rory Kennedy, a documentary filmmaker and youngest of Robert F. and Ethel Kennedy's children, and Michael Bailey, a book and film editor, is postponed at Hyannis Port, Mass.

2 p.m. Philbin Beach is closed for the search.

7 p.m. The Rude, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel, begins searching for the plane. Rude uses multibeam and side-scan sonar searches.

Friday, July 16

8:38 p.m. John F. Kennedy Jr.'s single-engine Piper Saratoga II HP leaves Essex County airport near Fairfield, N.J. The plane will fly about 62 minutes in the air before crashing.

9:26 p.m. The plane is at 5,600 feet, near Westerly, R.I.

9:40 p.m. The plane descends to 2,500 feet, 16.5 miles west of Martha's Vineyard airport. In the next 29 seconds, the last radar signal records that the plane has dropped 700 feet, to 1,800 feet.

10 p.m. Kennedy's plane is due to arrive at Martha's Vineyard airport.

11 p.m. An unidentified driver reports the plane is overdue, according to NBC news.

Compiled from news sources by

Copyright 1999

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