"As we drove down that road, I was almost looking out the front window and . . . tyring to see her walking down that road. I related this to Gargan and Markham and they said they understood this feeling but it was necessary to report it [the accident]," the senator said.
The three reached the ferry slip, which had closed for the night.
"I was completely convinced at that time that no further help and assistance would do Mary Jo any more good," Mr. Kennedy later said."I realized that she must be drowned and still in the car at this time, and it appeared the question in my mind at that time was, 'What should be done about the accident?'"
Mr. Gargan suggested that he call Dave Burke (his administrative assistant) and Burke Marshall (his personal lawyer) before he go to the police.
"I intended to call for assistance and report the accident to the police within a few short moments after going back into the car. . . . A lot of different thoughts came into my mind at that time about how I was really going to be able to call Mrs. Kopechne at some time in the middle of the night to tell her that her daughter was drowned, to be able to call my own mother and my own father. . . . Even though I knew that Mary Jo Kopechne was dead and believed firmly that she was in the back of that car, I willed that she remained alive. . . .
"I got out of the car and we talked there just a few minutes. I just wondered how all of this could possibly have happened. I also had sort of a thought and the wish and the desire and the hope that suddenly this whole accident would disappear.
"And they reiterated that this had to be reported, and I understood at the time that I left that . . . slip where the ferry boar was, that it had to be reported, and I had full intention of reporting it. And I mentioned to Gargan and Markham something like 'You take care of the girls, I will take care of the accident.' And that is what I said and I dove into the water.
"Now I started to swim out into that tide . . . [I] felt an extraordinary shove and . . . the water pulling me down. And suddenly I realized that I was in a weakened condition although as I looked over that distance [about 150 yards ] between the ferry slip and the other side, it seemed to me an inconsequential swim. But the water got colder, the tide began to draw me out, and for the second time that evening I knew I was going to drown. And the strength continued to leave me."
Testimony differs as to whether Mr. Gargan and Mr. Markham just watched the senator swim into the dark or jumped in the water to stop him. But they were not worried about his ability to make it to the other side. They stayed on the shore a few minutes before driving back to the cottage.
"[I] finally was able to reach the other shore and all the nightmares and all the tradegy and all the loss of Mary Jo's death was right before me again."
Senator Kennedy walked the few blocks to his room at the Shiretown Inn. He says he never really went to sleep that night.
Questions have been raised whether at this point he might have tried to construct an alibi.
He redressed and came down the stairs to ask the desk clerk, Russell E. Peachey, about noise from a party nearby. He asked what time it was and the clerk recalls saying it was 2:25 a.m.
By 7:30 a.m., after a restless night in his room, he walked outside the inn and ran into fellow yachtsman Ross W. Richards, who had won the race the day before in the regatta. Another skipper joined them and they sat amicably on a porch and, as Mr. Kennedy recalls, "they did most of the talking," chiefly about the weather and the racing.
No mention was made of the accident just eight hours earlier. Mr. Richards later recalled nothing out of the ordinary about Senator Kennedy's behavior.
Mr. Kennedy placed a call from the inn to his brother-in-law, Stephen Smith, now his presidential campaign manager. He failed to reach him.
About 8 a.m., Mr. Markham and Mr. Gargan arrived from Chappaquiddick. They had had a restless night's sleep at the cottage and later wondered why they had heard no sirens during the night. They had told a few of the girls after midnight that Mary Jo had driven alone back to the motel via the ferry while the senator, who had missed the ferry, swam the channel.
Senator Kennedy, 10 years later, told an interviewer that he had not reported to the police yet that morning because "I was waiting at that time for Gargan and Markham to come."
The two friends, meanwhile, had not yet told anyone -- even the other cottage guests -- about the accident.
Mr. Kennedy excused himself from the porch when his friends arrived and told the skippers that he might join them later for breakfast. Back in Mr. Kennedy's room, Mr. Gargan asked why the accident had not been reported.
The senator said he had "willed that Mary Jo still lived." He had hoped, while tossing in his bed and pacing the room, that his two friends would come and say she was alive.
He thought that the dawn of a new day would make it all go away. He said he could not find "the moral strength" to call Mrs. Kopechne at 2 a.m. and tell her that her daughter was gone.
Mr. Gargan responded: "This thing is, you know, worse now than it was before. You didn't report the thing, and we've got to do something." For about an hour, the three discussed what to do. Fellow cottage guest Charles Tretter entered the room at the Shiretown, but Mr. Kennedy signaled that he was not wanted.
The only private phone nearby, the three decided, was on the Chappaquiddick side of the ferry. They walked the few blocks to the ferry. After crossing, Messrs. Gargan and Markham waited while Senator Kennedy tried but failed to call his lawyer, Burke Marshall.
While they stood there, ferryman Richard Hewitt yelled out to Mr. Markham that a car with the senator's license had been discovered in a tidal pond. Mr. Hewitt quoted Mr. Markham saying, less than truthfully:
"yes, we just heard about it."
At that point, about 10 o'clock in the morning, when it appeared the accident was no longer a secret, Senator Kennedy took the ferry back and headed to the Edgartown police station to report the accident.
Almost 10 hours had passed since he drove off Dyke Bridge and Mary Jo had drowned. If Senator Kennedy had been driving under the influence of alcohol, there would have been no evidence of it in his blood now.