John F. Kennedy Jr. lost his life in a tragic plane crash which also resulted in the deaths of his wife, Carolyn Bessette, and sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette, on July 16, 1999, but was it actually an accident or just a cover-up to conceal the truth about what really happened? Episode 10 of the “Fatal Voyage: The Death of JFK Jr.” podcast dives deep into the “screaming signs” the incident was not just a mishap.
“He’d been flying for a long time. He was a very meticulous pilot,” author John Koerner says. “He knew what he was doing, never took any risks. So that could not have been the reason for the accident. It could never have been his fault. It must have been something else.”
On that fateful evening, JFK Jr. took off from Essex County Airport, New Jersey, in his Piper Saratoga aircraft. The group was headed to Martha’s Vineyard for his cousin Rory Kennedy’s wedding at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. They had planned to drop off Bessette’s sister in Martha’s Vineyard, and take a pit stop there before venturing to Hyannis.
However, something went terribly wrong nearly an hour after take off. When the plane didn’t arrive on schedule, it was reported missing and their loved ones feared for the worst. It wasn’t until July 21, 1999, when divers recovered what was left of their bodies from the Atlantic ocean floor, that their tragic deaths were confirmed.
The official explanation for the crash is that it was an accident caused by pilot error, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Others speculate it was a suicide attempt due to JFK Jr.’s alleged relationship struggles and failing publication, but homicide detective Colin McLaren thinks that theory is “a stretch.”
John Hankey, writer and director of Kennedy documentary Dark Legacy, also provides “powerful evidence” that JFK Jr. may have been targeted and possibly murdered.
“Another issue is that the FAA says he did not contact any of the flight control people on his path,” he says. “And all of his flight instructors, the ones that I was able to talk to, they couldn’t believe it. They thought that that was absolutely outrageous, in the most extreme terms, that anyone would suggest that he didn’t contact air traffic control facilities everywhere along your route, so they can advise you of any unforeseen abnormalities that you might be flying into, is just beyond belief.”
Furthermore, the Pentagon took over the reporting of JFK Jr.’s plane crash that afternoon. “Why is the Pentagon taking over the reporting of John’s plane crash? Well, that’s another screaming sign,” adds Hankey. “They’re the military taking over the reporting, and in their taking over the reporting, they announced that there was no flight instructor on the plane. Well, they had no way of knowing.”
The director notes how he later looked up a public report from a man who studied the air conditions that fateful evening. “There was no rain, there was no fog, it was fine. And in fact, people on the ground confirm this … So we can rule out any bad weather. There were no conditions that could have caused disorientation.”
Koerner also claims he found witnesses to an explosion in the sky where the plane would have been at the time. He further explains how JFK Jr. was “obsessed” with finding out who killed his father, John F. Kennedy, which could been the catalyst to someone plotting his murder.
JFK Jr. wanted to discover the truth, says reporter Leon Wagner. “With his own money, he was going to reopen the investigation, and then that’s when he died and that was obviously the end of it.”
Homicide? Suicide? Or just a horrific accident? The 12-part podcast will continue to explore what happened.
New episodes of “Fatal Voyage: The Death of JFK Jr.” are released every Wednesday.