(BOSTON, MA – August 30) What started out as a solemn day turned tragic Saturday when the honor guard escorting Senator Edward M. Kennedy to his final resting place took a wrong turn and accidentally dropped the Senator’s casket off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island.
The incident occurred as the hearse was transporting Kennedy to Logan Airport in Boston for the flight to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington. While en route, the hearse’s driver inexplicably took a wrong turn and detoured some 100 miles, including a ferryboat ride, before winding up on the bridge, which spans the island's Poucha Pond.
At that point, the back door of the hearse suddenly and without warning flew open, allowing the casket to fall out, skidding off the side of the bridge before flipping over and landing upside down in the water, where it remained visible for only a moment before tipping downward and sinking slowly to the bottom. Several members of the honor guard repeatedly dove into the water in a desperate but ultimately futile attempt to free Kennedy’s trapped body from its watery grave.
Undertaker Richard Bruce, who supervised the arrangements for the late Senator’s funeral, remained cautiously optimistic. “Of course, this is a most unfortunate situation, most unfortunate” Bruce said. “We can only hope that the Senator’s mortal remains were able to find the air pocket that the Poseidon 3000 [casket] creates as a result of its patented hermetically sealed lid. It is, naturally, our finest model, and we are confident that its lacquered walnut and polished bronze exterior should be able to keep the water out of the plush velvet interior for several hours. Fortunately, we understand that the suit in which [Kennedy] was buried was made of wash-and-wear material.”
Sheriff Arch Brahmin, reporting from the scene of the accident, said a team of trained divers was preparing a search-and-rescue mission. He acknowledged, however, that the task would be made more difficult by the fact that the honor guard apparently waited sixteen hours before reporting the accident, passing several homes and a fire station without stopping to phone authorities and advise them of what had happened.
“It’s frustrating, sure, but you can’t prepare for everything,” Brahmin said. “After all, how many times does something like this happen?”