The whole thing was a bit unseemly, from the start. A group of political men, most with pregnant wives, hosting an intimate, out-of-the-way gathering on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts, attended by younger, single women. Even if the women were loyal employees, owed a little treat once in a while, it still looked bad. But the party, like a thousand others, would just be a tiny, dusty memory in history’s attic were it not for an unfortunate accident, one that tarnished the reputation of the son of America’s most dynamic political family.

Lovely and wholesome, Mary Jo Kopechne never returned from that island alive. In the official version she accepted a ride to the ferry by Senator Edward Kennedy, but he forgot a turn on a bridge, ditched in the water, and overturned. He escaped the car, but she didn’t. And it was hours before he reported the car and drowned girl to authorities, while the Kennedy family brain trust was summoned to the scene for damage control.images-7

Voters back home in Massachusetts forgave Kennedy, although his national career suffered. Time moved on and he served an astounding 46 years in the U.S. Senate, until his death in 2009. But the cloud, the mystery, and the unseemly smell of the incident never entirely went away. The best spin doctors money can buy could never quite cleanse the image of a girl drowning in a car while the Senator went on about his business. And different theories have emerged of precisely what happened those hours of July 18 and early the 19th, 1969.

We set off to explore personal tragedy, wrapped in political intrigue.