Chappaquiddick Island, a small island off the eastern end of Martha’s Vineyard, became nationally recognized following an incident involving Senator Ted Kennedy and his companion Mary Jo Kopechne in 1969. Ted and Mary Jo, a former staff member of Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign, were driving in Kennedy’s 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 after a party when Kennedy apparently drove off the Dike Bridge into Poucha Pond in Massachusetts. Ted swam to safety, but Mary Jo wasn’t as fortunate, as she died in the car*. Kennedy immediately left the scene and did not contact the authorities until after the car and Kopechne’s body were discovered the following day by fishermen.
He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and was sentenced to two months in jail, suspended (he served no jail time at all). In 1970, a further inquiry into the matter was conducted (confidentially at the demand of Kennedy’s lawyers), and the judge determined that Kennedy’s “negligent driving appears to have contributed to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne” and could have ordered Kennedy’s arrest, but chose not to do so for unspecified reasons.
However, the Chappaquiddick incident became a headline issue when he ran for the democratic presidential nomination in 1980. (He had pledged not to run in 1972 and 1976 and turned down the chance to serve as George McGovern’s running mate tin 1972). National Lampoon satirized by showing a floating Volkswagen Beetle, in a controversial unauthorized use of VW trademark, that ended up being sued by Volkswagen company.
[Unverified: Within five to ten minutes of a drowning, a victim could be easily saved; there is usually a twenty-five minute window, during which a person can be saved after a drowning].