As Chappaquiddick Gets Hollywood Treatment, Inside the Notorious Car Crash

Playing What Is Chappaquiddick and What Happened There?

Chappaquiddick is a small island off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, Mass. It's also the backdrop for a new film about the infamous 1969 car accident involving U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy s.

That year, on the evening of Friday, July 18, Kennedy and his passenger, 28-year-old political aide Mary Jo Kopechne, took a wrong turn off the island's Dike Bridge. 

Their car landed upside down and drifted beneath the water. 

Mary Jo Kopechne
Kennedy, then 37, accidentally drove his car off a bride on Chappaquiddick Island, Mass., and into the water below. He managed to escape but 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne was trapped inside the vehicle and drowned. Getty

While Kennedy was able to escape and swim to the surface, Kopechne wasn't as lucky.

Kennedy said he repeatedly tried to swim down to Kopechne, but could not find her. She drowned.

Hours passed before Kennedy reported the incident to authorities. The submerged car and Kopechne's body were pulled from the water the next morning.

Days later, Kennedy attended Kopechne's funeral, wearing a neck brace for an injury he'd suffered in the crash.

Ted Kennedy
Kennedy attended Kopechne's funeral, wearing a neck brace for an injury he'd suffered in the crash. Getty

Later that week, Kennedy pleaded guilty to a leaving the scene of an accident. His two-month sentence was suspended and Kennedy addressed the public on television a week later.

In spite of his guilty plea, Kennedy was so popular in Massachusetts that he continued to be re-elected to the U.S. Senate.

He even flirted with a presidential run several times over his long career, but analysts believe the incident crippled his chances of reaching the White House. 

The closest he got was in 1980, when he mounted a vigorous primary challenge to incumbent President Jimmy Carter. Kennedy finally conceded to Carter at the Democratic National Convention.

Ted Kennedy
Kennedy pleaded guilty to a leaving the scene of an accident. His two-month sentence was suspended and Kennedy addressed the public on television a week later. Getty

Senator Kennedy died in 2009, having never filled his older brother John F. Kennedy's shoes.

The forthcoming film Chappaquiddick claims to tell the "untold, true story" of what happened that night in July 1969.

The trailer for the film about the incident was released last week and actor Jason Clarke, who plays Kennedy, is seen wearing a neck brace like the one the senator wore following the accident.

Kate Mara plays Kopechne in the film, which is slated to arrive in April.

"The diver who went down said that an air bubble had been formed when the car rolled over and sank into the bottom and she might have survived in that air bubble," Burton Hersh, author of Edward Kennedy: An Intimate Biography, told Inside Edition. 

The movie is directed by John Curran and stars Olivia Thirlby, Ed Helms, Jim Gaffigan and Bruce Dern. 

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