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Michael Kennedy dies in skiing accident

Obit graphic December 31, 1997
Web posted at: 11:35 p.m. EST (0435 GMT)

ASPEN, Colorado (CNN) -- Funeral arrangements were pending Thursday for 39-year-old Michael Kennedy, a son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, following a fatal New Year's Eve skiing accident in Colorado.

Michael Kennedy, a Massachusetts resident and father of three, suffered an onslaught of negative publicity last spring over an alleged affair with a family babysitter.

In a statement, the Aspen Ski Company, which runs the Aspen Mountain resort where Kennedy died, said he collided with a tree about 4:15 p.m. (6:15 EST) while skiing with members of his family.

Within about four minutes, the ski patrol was on the scene applying first aid, which continued as he was brought to the base of the mountain. He was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead at 5:50 p.m.

The Pitkin County Sheriff's Office released a statement saying Kennedy's death came at the end of a clear, mild day and "appears to be accidental."

A statement released by his mother, Ethel Kennedy, said she and her family "are mourning the loss of beloved Michael."

"He was a special and wonderful father, son, brother, cousin and friend, and his family would appreciate prayers during this tragic time," read the statement.

"Michael's death is a terrible tragedy for the children and the whole family," said a statement from his brother, U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II. "We will miss him dearly."

One of Bobby and Ethel Kennedy's 11 children

Michael and Ethel Kennedy
Michael Kennedy (left) and Ethel Kennedy during a tribute to Robert F. Kennedy in 1992

Michael Kennedy was one of 11 children of the late senator, who was assassinated in 1968 when Michael was just 10. A Massachusetts resident, he headed Citizens Energy Corporation, a nonprofit organization that supplies heating fuel to the poor, and managed his uncle Edward Kennedy's U.S. Senate re-election campaign in 1994.

His wife, Victoria, is the daughter of sportscaster Frank Gifford. The couple had three children.

Once viewed as one of the rising stars in his generation of Kennedys, Michael Kennedy last spring became enmeshed in a very public scandal after it was revealed that he had allegedly had an affair some years before with his family's baby sitter, who was reportedly only 14 at the time.

Despite the fact that sex with a person that young constitutes statutory rape in Massachusetts, no charges were filed against Kennedy after the former baby sitter refused to cooperate with prosecutors.

But the resulting wave of bad publicity contributed to a decision by his brother Joseph to withdraw from the 1998 Massachusetts governor's race -- a rare political setback for the Kennedys in the state where they have built a powerful political dynasty.

Under treatment for alcoholism

Kennedy -- who issued a statement after the statutory rape investigation saying that he had made serious mistakes -- had since remained largely out of sight. Earlier this year, he announced that he was undergoing treatment for alcoholism.

In the wake of the scandal, Kennedy and his wife also announced they were separating. But recent reports said they had reconciled.

Kennedy was the second of the late senator's children to die under tragic circumstances. His brother, David, died in Florida in 1984 of a drug overdose.

The Kennedy family has had a long history of tragic, untimely deaths. In addition to the deaths of Michael and David Kennedy and their father, their uncle, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in 1963.

Prior to that, the late president's sister, Kathleen, was killed in a plane crash, and his brother, Joe, was shot down over occupied Europe during World War II.


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