Chappaquiddick, Massachusetts on July 18, 1969. The road between Bazas and Bernos-Beaulac, France on June 16, 1968.
Same difference. Two tragic deaths with major American presidential candidates driving.
Bad driving, a car wreck, a woman killed, obscured and missing police reports, statements describing the incident and its aftermath that are implausible — that is what we have for both incidents, for drivers Ted Kennedy and Mitt Romney.
Kennedy was driving either his mother’s Lincoln or his own Oldsmobile. Romney was driving his mission’s Citroen DS. The front passenger seat for Romney was occupied by is Mission President, H. Duane Anderson, who was also the husband of the deceased.
Kennedy was not familiar with the island’s roads. Romney was a new driver out for the first time driving that car.
Kennedy blamed no one but himself. However his actions before and after the accident were obscured, perhaps fearing the peculiarly American obsession with prosecution. People are charged with anything and everything. Simple mistakes are routinely leveraged to generate prison sentences.
The car at Chappaquiddick was going slowly, 15 or 20 miles an hour, so Kennedy suffered no broken bones as the car slid off into the water. Kennedy said that he tried to save Ms. Kopechne by diving back in to the water and swimming down to find her — ultimately unsuccessfully. The car was upside down and Ms. Kopechne had either been taking a nap or been moved by the accident to the back seat. The accident itself was covered straightforwardly the next morning. Descriptions of the aftermath to that accident saw a divergence between plausible truths and media-aimed stories.
Mitt Romney’s accident was different. His car was going approximately “60 to 80 kph” (not “mph) and rammed a heavier solidly built Mercedes 180 sedan. Mrs. Anderson was the sixth passenger in the five passenger capacity Citroen DS. She had no seat belt and was flung forward into the dashboard and windshield. She died reportedly “two hours” later. Romney was not severely injured apart from damage to his right elbow, despite that he was ejected from the car out the driver-side door opening in a head-on collision.
A well crafted obituary for Mrs. Anderson in the Ogden Standard-Examiner of Monday, June 17th 1968, contains eye-witness reporting that Romney had a “minor head injury” that photographs show was not bandaged. He suffered a “strawberry” treated with antibacterial ointment. Also to be noted: Mitt Romney was already blaming the other driver.
Romney’s story in 2006/2007 and 2009 had changed further to include assertions that the French police at the scene had believed that he had died in the collision. Supposedly “Il est mort” was written in his passport at the accident scene as related in “The Real Romney” by Kranish and Helman. Such a notation would have required a medical examiner or coroner, indicating that “La dame est morte” in Mrs. Leola Anderson’s passport — she was 57 years old — would have been rather more likely. The Americans’ passports would have been stored in their travel bags.
Romney also claims to have been in a coma for two or three days depending on which interview you read. “The Real Romney” says it was three days. The photographs from Bazas Hospital taken at the same day as the reporting for the Ogden Standard-Examiner obituary show Romney interacting with the reporter/photographer, Andre Salarnier.
To be perfectly clear: this photo was taken Monday morning, 17 June 1968. The heroic, survived-the-drunk-priest Willard (Mitt) Romney made it up. There was no coma event connected with that accident apart from Mr. Anderson being in a medically induced coma to facilitate recovery from his eight broken ribs.
Similarly, “La Dame est mort” was a likely notation for Mrs. Anderson.
Romney was not in Intensive Care and was not on a monitor as would have been standard procedure for a coma patient. On the other hand Mr. H. Duane Anderson reportedly suffered eight broken ribs. He had extensive internal injuries. (This will be a critical piece of information as investigation moves forward. Romney’s supporters are now in 2012 trying to claim that a photo of the other driver from Bazas Hospital is really this Mr. Anderson. This despite that this person and the photographer had a conversation, plus that the photograph was the means by which this individual was identified. The pro-Romney statements are hokum. Even if it had been a poor quality photo, this other driver is depicted sitting up eating breakfast that Monday morning, immediately after the accident.)
No one was charged in the accident. National police records show that there was no referral whatsoever for a criminal investigation related to the Romney accident. National records are not destroyed; they are published. We do also know that Ambassador Sargent Shriver drove down and visited Romney in hospital on behalf of his father, George Romney.
If that visit influenced the local authorities, mitigating against a referral, no one would be surprised. Still, neither driver was speeding. No one was drinking alcohol. There was no stash of marijuana is a glove compartment. The 21-year old American had misread the roadway and one of his closest friends had been killed. In France there is no profit seen to prosecuting simple error, so a referral would have been unusual in any such case.
Press reports from the 2000s contain false information blaming this other driver. A misinformation campaign is executed with false documentation and allegations mouthed by invented witnesses.
The other driver was identified through efforts by an Occupy Security MMOG crew with civilian resources in France and Germany. These results contradict disinformation from the Romney crew who had spread word that the other driver was as a Catholic priest, “Albert Marie, age 46, ” who was driving the Mercedes-Benz and carrying his mother, identified as “Marie-Antoinette Marie,” and a friend “Marguerite Longué, 48.”
Finding this “Albert Marie” proved impossible. Of course. There was no such person. No such priest at Sereuil. No such priest in France.
A photo of the priest from the hospital at Bazas was circulated.
Using this Andre Salarnier hospital photo we did find the other driver: Bishop Jean-Felix-Albert-Marie Vilnet. Not drunk. Not speeding. Not blamed for the accident by anybody honest. A man of high intelligence who served as president of the Council of Bishops of France during the 1980s.
Here is the photo of the two cars from that accident:
The level of damage is critical to assessing Mr. Romney’s story about the accident. He would have the Mercedes going 120 kph/70 mph with his Citroen DS going 60 to 80 kph. In any such accident the damage would have destroyed the Citroen DS.
Romney also maintained that the accident happened on a “mountain road.” In fact, it happened across from the post office in Beaulac.
As of 2007 Romney says that he “believes there was a criminal proceeding against Marie.” But that most certainly did not happen. Records for the tribunaux correctionnel and cours d’assise show nothing of the sort.
“We were all talking about how dangerous how the highways were and the French highways,” Mr. Romney said, reported the Boston Globe in 2007. “Literally as we were having that conversation, boom, we were hit. It happened so quickly (that) there was no braking and no honking.”
Romney’s version is also quoted in a NY Times piece from 2007:
“We were driving, as I recall, through a curvy section of road where the speed limit is very low – I can’t remember what it is, but a very low speed limit – and suddenly there was a car in my lane that appeared so quickly around the corner or over the hill, I just don’t recall the topography terribly well at this stage, but it happened so quickly that, as I recall, there was no braking and no honking – it was like immediate,” Romney said. “My understanding was he … had been passing a truck and the truck driver said he estimated his speed at about 120 kilometers, which is about 70 miles per hour. And so we had an immediate head-to-head kind of collision.”
— The “truck driver”??? Peg that as nonexistent. Same for other invented witnesses. The business about “my understanding” implies that errors have deniability built in. Romney ascribes his unsupported statements to others.
That road would not support driving at 120 kph under any circumstance.
The various stories put out by Romney’s supporters assert that the mythical “Mgr. Marie” was speeding and also that he was drunk. Both at the same time with his mother sitting beside him in the parish Mercedes.
No report by French media of the time — including the virulently anti-clerical Left Wing press — contains any complaint against the other driver.
Citroen DS is notorious for disintegrating when struck by another an automobile or a truck.
If you have a problem: http://www.youtube.com/embed/Q7ggwKkEpPA
It is absurd to claim that the Romney DS in 1968 would have taken so little damage in a highway speed no-brakes head-on collision. Apparently they did not know that the French police saved photographs, along with the newspaper files.
No charges were filed against anyone. There seems to have been no priest “Albert Marie” of an appropriate age anywhere in the world. If such a person had been drunk and had killed Leona Anderson, whatever his name, status as a priest would not have protected véhicules homicide involontaire coupable. On the other hand, Mr. Romney was rushed back to Paris on a specially leased railroad car with the other Mormon passengers as soon as possible.
(Mrs. Leola Anderson’s death would likely have been avoided if she had been wearing a seat belt. She was riding as the sixth passenger in a five-passenger car. For example, if Elder David Wood had been send home from Pau by train, there would have been no seat belt shortage. Mrs. Anderson might have lived another 20 or 30 years.)
No investigation was registered. Routine statements were taken by local police and from there, since the special privately leased railroad train had returned the survivors from the Anderson car to Paris four days after the accident, there was no more face-to-face follow-up. Insurance paid for the Mercedes.
Consider the situation without finding out exactly where the accident took place. Want to lay betting odds on who was at fault?
Take your pick between a 21-year old Mormon missionary on his first trip through France’s largely unpainted (in 1968) roads and a mature priest, a 46 year old bishop? As well, for one, this Citroen DS was also susceptible to understeering because the rear wheels were set narrower than the front wheels — 1295 mm vs. 1500 mm. The young Mr. Romney could easily have not been able to compensate to avoid hitting the Mercedes 180.
The accident itself turns out to have taken place in the southbound Left Turn lane of N524. Romney was driving north.
Here are the Andersons from the day before the accident:
Likely what is important here is not Romney’s youthful bad driving. Most likely, he doesn’t know from his own memories what happened. He was not speeding. For 21-year olds such accidents are not unusual.
The focus should be on the very experienced lying that happens Monday after the accident and then later on, such as renaming the priest and claiming in 2007 that he had died. Every big lie is put into the mouth of an unidentified witness.
Le Monde had a piece with quotes from an article purported to have appeared in Bordeaux’s Sud Ouest:
“I was frightened of driving a car,” said Mitt Romney to the Boston Globe in 2007. “I had a sense of vulnerability I had not experienced before.”
The Anderson’s Citroen carried Romney, H. Duane and Leola Anderson, David Wood, and Suzanne and Bertin Farel. Five passenger car. That is where the seat belt shortage developed.
Washington Post in December 2007 repeated the Romney tale, screwed up further by getting the directions of the cars backward:
For Romney, that circumstance was a catastrophic moment on a winding two-lane highway through French wine country. A car heading north at about 60 mph missed a curve, barreled over a hill and veered into Romney’s southbound lane. The car slammed into the front of the Citroen, knocking Romney out cold. Police who arrived at the scene on June 16, 1968, found pearl-like beads scattered across the road. The officer who discovered Romney, motionless and mangled, marked the young man’s passport “Il est mort”: He is dead.
Seems to us that a half-dozen events of Mitt Romney’s life have resulted in Team Lying and complex cover-up operations. Refiling taxes in Massachusetts and nicking $54,000 a year off Park City, Utah, are typical. If it’s not being at the wheel for his own fatal automobile accident, then it’s the state residency requirement in 2002 to run for Massachusetts governor. Or it’s using Bain to take a $60-million “fee” out of Ampad while arranging $100-million in loans prior to declaring Ampad bankrupt. Takes quite the cover-up to put spin on stiffing the Ampad lenders and the employees and the employee pension funds (dumped on the public insurance system.) Or Bain applying Romney’s tactics to scam Clear Channel into billions of dollars of debt while off-loading $2-billion in their own skim.
On the evidence the Republican Party checked out this guy Romney as casually as they checked out Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney. Mental status was not an issue.
Sarah Palin is not lethal for humans, so far. Of the three of them there is a lot to be said for Palin.