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On June 19, 1964, Kennedy was a passenger in a private Aero Commander 680 airplane flying in bad weather from Washington to Massachusetts. It crashed into an apple orchard in the western Massachusetts town of Southampton on the final approach to the Barnes Municipal Airport in Westfield . The pilot and Edward Moss, one of Kennedy's aides, were killed. Kennedy was pulled from the wreckage by fellow Senator Birch E. Bayh II and spent months in a hospital recovering from a severe back injury, a punctured lung, broken ribs and internal bleeding. He suffered chronic back pain for the rest of his life. Kennedy took advantage of his long convalescence to meet with academics and study issues more closely, and the hospital experience triggered his lifelong interest in the provision of health care services. His wife Joan did the campaigning for him in the regular 1964 U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts, and he defeated his Republican opponent by a three-to-one margin.
The Weather Bureau said visibility was less than 2 and a half miles and conditions were "marginal" even for an instrument landing by a plane. Shortly after 11 at night, and just before landing at Barnes Municipal Airport in Westfield, Massachusetts, the twin-engine plane made a sharp right turn.
"My first thought," he said later, "was that the plane had been hit by lightning." He looked cautiously about. "I saw black things outside my window," he recalled. "I could see car lights, but the plane then began a steep climb.”
Then the plane went down in the apple orchard top a hill about three miles short of the runway.