It was on July 16th, 1999 that John F. Kennedy, Jr. took off from an airport in Fairfield, New Jersey at the controls of his Piper Saratoga with his wife, Carolyn Bessette and his sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette. They never reached their destination.

They were flying to Martha’s Vineyard where they were to drop off Lauren before continuing on to Hyannis Port for his cousin’s wedding. Kennedy checked in with the tower at Martha’s Vineyard airport, but never landed.

Radar data examined later showed the plane plummeting from 2,200 feet to 1,100 feet in a span of 14 seconds, a rate far beyond the aircraft’s safe maximum. It then disappeared from the radar screen.

In its investigation, the NTSB determined that the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean and the likely cause of the crash was pilot error, saying in its report: “Kennedy's failure to maintain control of the airplane during a descent over water at night, which was a result of spatial disorientation.” Navy divers recovered all three bodies from the floor of the Atlantic; they were still strapped in their seats. The craft was located 116 feet down and about 8 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

Their cremated remains were scattered at sea in a private ceremony with a memorial mass held in Massachusetts.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr., was born on November 25, 1960, just a few weeks after his father and namesake was elected the 35th president of the United States. On his third birthday, “John-John” attended the funeral of his assassinated father and was photographed saluting his father’s coffin in a famous image.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.

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