The Luck of the Kennedys
Near Southhampton, Massachusetts
June 19, 1964
Born in the Boston
suburb of Brookline in 1932, Edward “Ted” Kennedy was the youngest of the nine
children of Joseph P. Kennedy - the American ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Ted's oldest brother, Joseph P. Kennedy Junior, was killed during World War II,
and his second-oldest brother, John F. Kennedy, was elected President in 1960.
The next oldest, Robert F. Kennedy, was appointed Attorney General in 1961, and
Ted Kennedy was elected to the United States Senate, from his home state, in
Senators Birch Bayh
(D-Indiana) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.)
Senators Kennedy and
Bayh had reason to celebrate - after 83 days of debate, the Civil Rights Act of
1964 had passed, with a vote of 73-27, in the Senate, and the pair were flying
from Washington National Airport, headed to the Massachusetts State Democratic
Convention, where Kennedy had planned to be on hand to accept his Senate
renomination, followed by a weekend of speaking engagements. The junior
senators, from Massachusetts and Indiana respectively, were accompanied by one
of Kennedy's aides, Edward Moss, and Bayh's wife, Marvella.
The plane, an Aero
Commander 680, registered as N344S, was being flown by pilot Edwin T. Zimny, a
48 year-old commercial pilot, flight instructor, mechanic, and owner / operator
of Zimny's Flying Service, of Lawrence, Mass. The plane's owner,
Daniel E. Hogan – also from Lawrence – lend the plane to the
senators for their use to and from the District of Columbia.
Things Are Not Always As
The Weather Bureau said
visibility was less than 2 and a half miles and conditions were "marginal" even
for an instrument landing by a plane. Shortly after 11 at night, and just before
landing at Barnes Municipal Airport in Westfield, Massachusetts, the twin-engine
plane made a sharp right turn.
first thought," he said later, "was that the plane had been hit by lightning."
He looked cautiously about. "I saw black things outside my window," he recalled.
"I could see car lights, but the plane then began a steep climb.”
the plane went down in the apple orchard top a hill about three miles short of
Senator Bayh pulled a
badly injured Senator Kennedy from the wreckage, but Zimny and Moss were both
trapped in the wreckage. Robert Schauer, who lived about a quarter-mile
away from the crash site, was one of the first on the scene and commented about
it later to news reporters.
"There was Ted Kennedy
laid out flat beside the wreckage of the plane - in deep pain ... but he was
more concerned with the comfort of the others. When I reached the plane,"
Schauer said. "Senator Bayh was standing beside it trying to gel his wife out. I
helped him and we got her free.”
Kennedy said 'See that she's taken care of first.' He was on the ground near the
plane. We walked Mrs. Bayh down the hill, her husband and I. We tried to get
cars to stop for us, but 10 went by without stopping.”
According to Schauer, "I
got them to my house, supplied blankets, called the police and fire departments
and went back with some water for Senator Kennedy. When I got back to the plane,
Senator Kennedy was still there. He was as cool as a cucumber. He said he had
shoulder and back injuries.”
Zimny was killed almost
instantly in the crash, and Moss, a former New England Telephone Company
executive, died at 6:15 in the morning at the hospital while undergoing brain
Bayh stated that the
plane's cockpit was "peeled right off and the nose was badly damaged." The plane
was on its belly, the right wing nearly sheared off. The rose-colored plane,
with black stripes, still had its red beacon light on the tail lit and rotating
after the crash.
When rescue workers got
Kennedy to Cooley-Dickinson Hospital, he had no pulse and his blood pressure
"was almost nonexistent."
The doctors "took heroic
measures including blood transfusions in a successful attempt to rally the
failing senator and the efforts paid off," Press Secretary Edward Martin said,
referring to the three units of blood and glucose that Kennedy was transfused
A team of army doctors
flown from Walter Reed army medical center in Washington credited Doctor. Thomas
Corriden, the hospital's chief of staff, with saving Kennedy's life.
Taking the Pain...
But Kennedy had to
endure 10 days of immobility in an special orthopedic bed to permit his broken
back, and two broken ribs, to heal,
Senator Birch Bayh of
Indiana suffered torn muscles in his right hip, and his wife suffered two small
cracks in her lower back, extending into her spine.
Schauer said also, "I
heard the plane before it crashed. It was sounding normal. Then I heard it plow
into the hill. I think they misjudged the hill. The plane was on top of
the hill when I reached it."
The Civil Aeronautics
Board concluded that the probable cause of the accident was the pilot's improper
operation in instrument conditions.